A mother wrongly imprisoned for poisoning her baby struggles to prove her innocence in the largely grueling, fact-based drama "Without a Kiss Goodbye" (at 9 p.m. Sunday on CBS, Channels 2 and 8).
A young baby suddenly dies and doctors claim the cause to be poisoning by antifreeze. The script by James Duff plants three red herrings: the infant's convicted, harried mom (Lisa Hartman Black), the father (Christopher Meloni) who sulks at his baby's incessant crying, and the family's doting, weird, cliched mother-in-law whose character is so insufferable that even Cloris Leachman can't redeem it.
As the bedeviled mother, Black's no-nonsense demeanor and cold exterior credibly helps to explain why the whole state of Washington seemingly turns against her. But once jailed, Black's tough veneer fails to mirror the fear and stress of a young wife facing life in a cell.
When the woman becomes pregnant a second time and that baby also falls prey to antifreeze poisoning, the story takes a complicated genetic and medical leap that's finally resolved by the appearance of a sharp lawyer (in a warm, winning performance by David Ogden Stiers).
But most of this is tough sledding. Director Noel Nosseck can't seem to do anything about the tiresome crying by the baby, a howling too realistic for the movie's own good, followed in turn by a mother-in-law who gives grandmothers everywhere a bad name, anchored by a young mom whose character is skin-deep.