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Television Reviews : 'A Family Again' Shows the Impact of a Child's Death

October 15, 1988|LYNNE HEFFLEY

If you're tempted to seek the nearest sitcom tonight after a glance at the synopsis of ABC's "A Family Again," resist the temptation. You'll be rewarded with an unpretentious portrait of tragedy overcome, remarkable for its delicate touch.

Originally intended as an "ABC Afterschool Special," the hourlong film, airing at 8 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, is about the effect that a child's death has on parents and siblings.

"L.A. Law's" husband-and-wife team, Michael Turner and Jill Eikenberry, play Jeremy and Clare Foster, whose eldest daughter drowns.

Unable to adjust to the loss, Clare can't do anything but mourn, and Jeremy loses himself in his work. Their 15-year-old Lindsey (sweet-faced Tonya Crowe from "Knot's Landing") is left to become homemaker and substitute mother to little Billie, a beautifully written role, movingly played by Judith Barsi. (The film is dedicated to Barsi, the young actress who was killed shortly after the film was completed.)

The more Lindsey takes on, the more the family leans on her, not seeing her own desperation and smothered grief. Even understanding Aunt Dee (Rhea Perlman) adds to Lindsey's burden by praising her strength and telling her to "keep holding down the fort."

None of the cast strikes a false note, from the principals to Rob Stone and Ricki Lake as Lindsey's understanding friends.

With rare simplicity, writer and director Camille Thomasson believably takes each family member through a progression of alienation, anger and denial, to a point where grief and memories can be shared and healing begins.

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