June 01, 1998 12:00 PM

Showtime (Sun., May 31, 8 p.m.)

Near the end of this drama, real-life Senate investigator Jim Tuite (Ted Danson) gives his wife (Cynthia Dale) a speech on the many reasons the U.S. government has failed to deal with the complaints of thousands of veterans who say they were harmed by toxic substances in the Persian Gulf War. “Maybe it’s too much for anybody to get a hold of,” she finally responds. Maybe so, but no one can say writer John Sacret Young (China Beach) and director Rod Holcomb (ER) haven’t made an all-out attempt to cover the subject of Gulf War syndrome in this three-hour-plus production.

For viewers who are suspicious of fictionalization, the filmmakers repeatedly—and often gratuitously—reinforce dramatic scenes with documentary-style testimony by actual veterans, politicians, et al. For viewers who like mystery and suspense to enliven the facts, they have created a key composite character: a Deep Throat-type source who meets Tuite in dark places. The investigator is annoyed by the cloak-and-dagger stuff; so are we. The drama is most persuasive when it gets out of Washington and into the lives of two families affected by Gulf War syndrome: a soldier (Matt Keeslar) who inadvertently infects his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and baby, and a civilian (Steven Weber) who develops brain cancer as an apparent result of his postwar cleanup work in the Gulf, then commits himself to the loving care of his sister (Marg Helgen-berger) and his God.

Bottom Line: A noble but flawed effort

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