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Television Review

The Biggest Mystery: Who's Watching 'Nora'?

February 28, 2001|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe it's the mundane casting of Melissa Gilbert and Costas Mandylor as the troubled heroine and her love interest. Maybe it's the hoary cliche of a big, bad storm striking as the killer finally makes a move. Either way, there's scant satisfaction to be drawn from "Nora Roberts' Sanctuary," tonight's hokey CBS movie based on a book by the popular author.

Gilbert plays Jo Hathaway, a photographer being stalked by someone sending her creepy e-mail. Attempting to give her stalker the slip, Jo heads home to "find some answers."

There, she's comforted by a brother (Chris Martin), father (Kenneth Walsh) and aunt (Kathy Baker) as well as friends who are running an inn on a tranquil island. Jo also is reacquainted with Nate (Mandylor), an uncomplicated lug claiming to have loved her since they were kids.

The story poses three snoozy mysteries, the first involving that pesky stalker. The other puzzlers deal with Jo's mother, who walked out on the family nearly 20 years ago, and the murder of a friend. Jo's trust issues initially make it difficult for her to fall for Nate, but it's merely a matter of time (and commercials) before these two are more than friends.

Viewers are very unlikely to be biting their nails during the film's waning moments. The script by Katt Shea and Vivienne Radkoff ties up most of the plot's dangling ends, but there's no urgency in the writing or in Shea's direction, resulting in a film that is never gripping or suspenseful.

If you're really seeking "Sanctuary," we suggest a switch to another network.

* "Nora Roberts' Sanctuary" can be seen tonight at 9 on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG-LSV (may be unsuitable for young viewers, with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence).

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