Blessed are the TV stories that don't exploitatively strip-mine tragedy and violent crime but instead challenge viewers with meaningful, intensely moving dramas about contemporary society.
Yes, they do exist. One is ABC's "Family Pictures," a two-part odyssey of the sweet and bitter airing at 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42. Drawn from a novel by Sue Miller, this honest, memorably good, achingly performed work chronicles the troubled evolution of the Eberlins, a large, bustling, often-dysfunctional upper-middle-class Seattle family, from the late 1950s to the early 1980s.
Co-producer Jennifer Miller's sensitive script springs essentially from the perspective of one of the daughters, Nina (Kyra Sedgwick). Her account is an accordion of constantly fluctuating emotions, as she and some of her siblings and their ill-matched, ever-antagonistic parents undergo cataclysmic change, both in their personal lives and in the way they relate to each other.
The parents' personalities dominate much of the story, which is ably and unpretentiously directed by Philip Saville. Volatile, moody and intense, Lainey (Anjelica Huston) calls her reserved, detached psychiatrist husband, David (Sam Neill), her "master of the silver lining." He dubs her his "mistress of the dark cloud."