January 16, 1989 12:00 PM

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


ABC should have left well enough alone after it made David, last year’s stellar movie about a boy who was burned by his own father. But TV never leaves well enough alone, never. So here is another true story of a boy’s pain and courage turned into another movie. The difference: David was well made. This one is not. In this show there is but one redeeming effort: the perceptive performance of young Lukas Haas as Ryan White, the boy in Indiana who fought hate, ignorance and bureaucracy when he was barred from attending school because he had AIDS. The script and direction trap the rest of the cast in straitjacket stereotypes: Judith (Who’s The Boss?) Light playing the common woman, Ryan’s mother; George C. Scott playing the tough lawyer who takes Ryan’s case; Peter (Newhart) Scolari playing the bumbling bureaucrat representing the school; and lots of unknowns playing the ugly bigots of Kokomo. It is all too pat: the characterizations, the dialogue, the direction, the emotions. It is not enough for Ryan’s dog to be run over and killed and for Ryan and his mom to carry the dead body and for Ryan to say to the dog, “See you in heaven.” No, that scene has to be dragged out until even an inanimate TV set would cry. Ryan White’s story needs no amplification to become touching; it just is. Ryan White deserves better than this.

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