A chaste adult love story on network TV, especially when the characters are in their 60s, doesn't come along very often. But "The Love She Sought," co-starring Angela Lansbury and Denholm Elliott, is comparatively adventurous prime-time programming. It airs Sunday at 8 on Channels 4, 36 and 39.
The characters probably fantasize about sex, but they've been celibate too long to worry about it. Otherwise, the story certainly has content: a lonely spinster Catholic schoolteacher (Lansbury), a loving Irish priest (Elliott), Cupid's chariot hurtling out of control on the greens and rivers of Ireland, and a scrappy bishop (Robert Prosky) trying to modernize Catholic education.
On one level, this is an Irish and a Catholic story that couldn't come along at a better time for a priesthood that's lately taken its lumps (the church-scandal drama, "Judgment," on HBO last weekend, for instance). "The Love She Sought" isn't "Bells of St. Mary's" either. It's essentially a tale of loneliness, of two people who wait too long to make a move in their lives, and then when they do, one of them freaks out, drops out, and hearts crack.
The script by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman (based on the novel, "A Green Journey," by Jon Hassler) has elements of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" in Lansbury's stern, mother-hen demeanor with her students. One of them (Cynthia Nixon) gives the show youthful ballast and teaches Lansbury an important lesson about forgiveness.
But, under Joseph Sargent's direction, it's Elliott's bewitched priest, a man who wants once in his life to know what's it's like \o7 not \f7 to be a Father, who lifts this movie into the realm of adult adventure.