Fox is having the same trouble with its TV movies that it has with its series.
When it hits one -- as with a series like "The Simpsons" and a movie like "Robin Hood" -- it's out of the park, a home run. But too many of the fourth network's other productions are barely infield dribblers, easy outs.
What Fox can't seem to get down is hitting line drives, consistently turning out good shows and movies that might not be great but are of a quality that will keep the viewers coming back week after week.
Tonight's attempt at a TV movie, "The Sitter," which will be on Channel 45 (WBFF) at 8 o'clock, is supposed to be a taut psychological thriller, but unfortunately it goes limp before it's halfway through.
"The Sitter," a re-make of the 1952 Marilyn Monroe vehicle "Don't Bother to Knock," would have made a nice half-hour episode of "The Twilight Zone." That's a compliment to its basic premise, as it is sturdy enough to stand among the plot lines of that esteemed series. But it's also to tell you that the film is about 90 minutes too long.
For a psychological drama to work, there has to be a deadly shoe that constantly demands your attention as you wait for it to drop. The tension thus created ties the film together thematically.
Though "The Sitter" has a certain dogged competence, it has no such unifying element. Instead, it wanders almost haphazardly through a murderous day in the life of a disturbed young woman as she has one encounter after another on her picaresque journey.
Matters are a bit muddled from the outset when the setup has you focusing on the wrong person as the eventual culprit. The film opens with an yuppie couple checking into a hotel where he, a successful self-help author, is to speak at a convention. They arerelatively annoying, but their daughter appears to be the one who could do real damage. Judging by the title, you figure she's going to give some baby sitter fits.
But such is not the case. Mommy soon finds that her plans for a sitter have fallen through, and then the elevator operator suggests his niece as a replacement. The couple agrees -- he eagerly, she reluctantly -- and the scene shifts to the elevator operator's home where a nervous Nell of a niece is being psychologically battered by the man's wife.
Nell turns out to be the one who will wreak havoc on the proceedings for the next two hours while the original suspect -- the little girl -- is nothing more than your garden variety spoiled brat.
That original impression does damage to the entire film because it is your concern for the little girl's welfare that is supposed to keep you in suspense for the film's duration. However, since she was given such an unsympathetic introduction -- indeed, after
seeing the treatment of Nell at home you feel more sympathy for the villain -- you don't have the empathy with the potential victim that is necessary for a thriller to thrill.
Kim Myers, who undoubtedly gets sick and tired of hearing how much she looks like Meryl Streep, though it probably helps her get jobs, turns in an adequate performance as Nell, making her all sweet and vulnerable but sporting a deadly right hook when she's got a heavy candlestick in her hand. Kimberly Cullum plays the spoiled brat in jeopardy. As with too many of these Fox made-for-TV films, "The Sitter" has a thin and cheap look, as if not enough were spent on extras and set dressing and such. But, more importantly, not enough attention was spent on a story that could keep an audience anywhere near the edge of its seat for two hours.
** An elevator operator in a hotel recommends his niece as a baby sitter for a desperate couple, with deadly results.
CAST: Kim Myers, Kimberly Cullum
TIME: Tonight at 8 p.m.
CHANNEL: Fox Channel 45 (WBFF)