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TV Reviews : Gish Confronted With Date Rape in 'Not a Stranger'

October 17, 1989|IRV LETOFSKY

After sitcoms, TV likes to fill its time with social evils. Like "When He's Not a Stranger," a cautionary tale on campus rape. It airs tonight at 9 on Channels 2 and 8.

The movie, courtesy of executive producer Don Ohlmeyer and writer-director John Gray, is about a dreamy frosh named Lyn (Annabeth Gish, who made such a strong debut in the feature "Mystic Pizza" as the innocent kid sister; she's appropriately vulnerable and distraught here).

Lyn leaves her little home in New York to study at a college in our state. Handsome star quarterback Ron Cooper (John Terlesky) inveigles her into his dorm room and rapes her.

What ensues is pain, then anger. Her roommate, who's "dating" Ron, doesn't believe her; her parents are dubious; the football coach says her allegations will hurt the team; the college panel beats her up with its questions, then finds no evidence of physical rape.

Lyn bravely persists and files felony rape charges. In the end, there is a plea bargain and it looks as if Ron will get off with probation--until. . . .

There isn't much here that we haven't seen on "Cagney & Lacey" and "L.A. Law," etc. The script opts for simple-minded characterizations and elementary insights. But anything additional on the subject is helpful. This sort of brutality doesn't go away.

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