By David Hiltbrand
January 17, 1994 12:00 PM

ABC (Sun., Jan. 16, 9 p.m. ET)


Soul diva Diana Ross makes her TV acting debut in a powerful portrait of mental illness. When we first see her, she’s in a sorry state: deranged, bedraggled and paranoid. Her full-blown schizophrenia follows a pattern: she stops taking her medication and ends up shackled and raving in a psych ward.

After being institutionalized 43 times in 17 years, Ross is paired with a psychiatric worker (Lindsey Crouse) who gets her on a promising experimental drug, clozapine. Placed in a residential community, the patient begins making painfully slow progress toward sanity.

Ross’s performance is inspired, both in the ferocious beginning and later, in a more subdued fashion, in conveying the way regret and resolve commingle in a person who is recovering from an incapacitating disease that has hacked years out of her life. The film’s flaws include a smudgy visual quality and stolid scenes depicting the impact of Ross’s condition on her family. Ann Weldon, Juanita Jennings, Beah Richards and John Marshall Jones costar.