ABC (Sun., Dec. 17, 9 P.M. ET)
If anyone was ever born to play in part-frothy, part-serious TV movies, it’s John Ritter, Mr. Happy-Go-Weepy. But here he has bitten off more than he can charm. Co-star Mel Harris is also out of her depth. Still, the movie, a variation on The Way We Were, is diverting. Ritter is the black sheep in a wealthy Boston family, Harris the goody-goody daughter of a social climber (Polly Bergen). They fall in love at first sight, but in her timidity she marries his straitlaced brother.
Both Ritter and Harris are good in the scenes in which they are playing their own ages or older. But their credibility fades progressively the deeper they go into the past, flashing back over three decades. (Course-of-a-lifetime roles like these can I work onstage, but TV is a medium of close-ups.) Beyond that caveat, this is a burnished production with an intelligent script (adapted from A.R. Gurney’s play The Middle Ages) that is generally well acted, especially by Dakin Matthews as Ritter’s Brahmin father.