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Television Reviews : Fresh, Dramatic Storyline Just What 'Jesse' Needs

October 04, 1988|DON SHIRLEY

"Jesse" (Channels 2 and 8 at 9 p.m.) suffers from a severe dearth of genuine drama.

Jesse Maloney (Lee Remick), a nurse in a remote desert town in 1965, was the only medical authority of any kind within 100 miles. She worked for a doctor who made sporadic visits to the town, but she had to make many a decision on her own, and she saved many a life in the process.

Judging from James Lee Barrett's screenplay, Jesse never made a mistake. Not one person was misdiagnosed or mistreated by this living saint. So when shifty state investigators arrest her for practicing medicine without a license, it's completely out of the blue.

An entire town mobilizes in her defense, while the only indigenous voice raised against her is that of an old barfly. Even he has "nothing personal" against Jesse, he says; his argument is that she does such a good job that no real doctor will ever settle in the town.

The suspense over what will happen to Jesse is virtually non-existent. But a two-hour time slot had to be filled, so director Glenn Jordan padded the film with repetition. We get lots of shots of cars driving down the road and of people breaking the news of Jesse's arrest. We get a shamelessly mawkish and pointless scene at a burning house.

Barrett threw in a dollop of domestic strife--Jesse's husband (Scott Wilson) feels neglected--but it's resolved as predictably as the rest of the story.

Remick looks as radiant as always; it's hard to believe that someone who's called to accident sites in the middle of the night could look so fresh and vital. Too bad we can't say the same for the movie itself.

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