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Television Review

Harmon Is All Evil in 'And Never Let Her Go'

March 31, 2001|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A chunk of Mark Harmon's TV career has been devoted to portrayals of flawed but well-meaning physicians, from "St. Elsewhere" to "Chicago Hope." On occasion, however, this clean-cut, enduringly youthful, all-American actor throws us a sneaky curve, taking on the intriguing roles of flat-out wicked men, the most notable being infamous serial killer Ted Bundy in the 1986 NBC movie "The Deliberate Stranger."

Harmon's latest maladjusted miscreant surfaces in "And Never Let Her Go," a two-part CBS crime drama that begins Sunday. At four hours, this absorbing murder yarn based on a true story is not as taut as it would have been at a shorter duration. Nonetheless, Harmon's believable work as smart, charming master manipulator Thomas Capano, an attorney based in Wilmington, Del., sustains interest.

As one of his brothers aptly puts it in Wednesday's conclusion, Capano "likes 'em needy," referring to the prominent lawyer's perpetual pursuit of vulnerable women. His unsuspecting target in late 1994 was Anne Marie Fahey (Kathryn Morris), the bright, upbeat and profoundly insecure aide to Delaware's governor.

Based on a book by Ann Rule, the script by Adam Greenman and direction by Peter Levin sets the eerie scene for Anne Marie's inexplicable disappearance 16 months later when her boyfriend and relatives entered her empty, exceedingly neat home, unaware of the foul play that had transpired.

Seamlessly shifting between the subsequent investigation and the back story pairing the film's principal characters, the tale recounts how an opportunistic Capano willfully preyed on an admiring Anne Marie, who cautiously agreed to an affair in spite of his marriage, which he claimed was on the rocks.

The police investigation was headed by Det. Frank Gugliatta (Paul Michael Glaser), who was joined by Colm Connolly (Steven Eckholdt) of the U.S. attorney's office. Initially wary, the veteran Gugliatta comes to trust and respect Connolly, though the dogged duo has difficulty pinning anything on the clever Capano.

While we gather a great deal about the compulsively neat Anne Marie's quirks and frailties, the film's flaw is never giving us a real feel for what made the cold-hearted Capano click. Why was he the immoral, arrogant, unrepentant control freak who could twist and shatter the lives of others without a second thought?

There are hints involving his deceased father and overbearing mother (Olympia Dukakis), but it's not quite enough. And given the two nights writer Greenman had to work with, couldn't he have done a bit more to flesh out the thin characters of Gugliatta and Connolly?

Aside from these shortcomings, the production offers sharp performances by Harmon, who never overplays his hand as Capano, and Morris, who connects beautifully to Anne Marie. Glaser and Eckholdt hold up their end as well.

This handsome project, which also boasts the clean, crisp visuals of cinematographer Bruce Surtees and unintrusive music of Harald Kloser, is good.

Call it nit-picking if you will, but the feeling here is it could have been better.

*

The two-part "And Never Let Her Go" can be seen Sunday 9 p.m. and Wednesday 9 p.m. on CBS. The network has rated Part 1 TV-PG-D (may be unsuitable for young children, with an advisory for suggestive dialogue). Part 2 is rated TV-PG-DL (with an additional advisory for coarse language).

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