Woodward's 'Blind Spot' deserves a look


If you haven't been in a card shop lately, you're in for a shock. Whole sections are devoted to "recovery" sentiments and wishes -- recovery from alcoholism, drug abuse and life-threatening relationships, to name a few.

People who know where their loved one's detox center is can send them a card of support.

It's not surprising, with recovery cards ready to go and Mother's Day right around the corner as well, that Hallmark offers us a drama about a mother-daughter relationship that involves substance abuse.

"Blind Spot," the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie at 9 Sunday night on WBAL (Channel 11), is a two-card story.

Hallmark is one of the few sponsors that still produces its own movies -- rounding up the story, talent and overseeing production, like the TV producers of the 1950s. We see love stories just before Valentine's Day and families-around-the-turkey-and-tree stories in November and early December.

It would make more sense for this drama to air on Mother's Day, but that wouldn't give viewers the lead time to get out there and buy those written sentiments. And let's not forget that commercial TV is first about commercials.

Frequently, however, Hallmark does care enough to send the very best drama to us, if a week early. And Sunday's film is an example of a sponsor wanting to be associated with quality.

The quality in question is Joanne Woodward, who only continues to get better in TV movie after TV movie. And she started out as merely sublime. Woodward might be the best reason for the form, which is frequently pablum, to continue.

In "Blind Spot," Woodward plays a successful congresswoman who seems to be managing her personal life as successfully as her public one. Her daughter has married a man who was like a son to the congresswoman and is now her chief of staff. The daughter is pregnant, and the couple is happy about it. Woodward's husband, played by Fritz Weaver, is supportive and smart.

And, in all of this, Woodward puts her individual stamp on this "super-successful woman," breathing unique, memorable life into her. We might have seen the character done a hundred times before on TV, but this creature, her particular force, remains with us. Woodward's is the face we'll put on her in the future.

The script by Nina Shengold is also not predictable. And there's more blunt talk here about what drugs offer some people than most TV dramas have ever been willing to admit.

It emerges that the congresswoman's daughter has a drug problem. What should be left to the viewer is the considerable reward of seeing how the secret is revealed and what throws the daughter and the family around her into crisis. And it is crisis. This is a movie that reminds viewers that one person's drug abuse can destroy an entire family of lives.

Part of the proceeds from this film, it should be noted, go to the Scott Newman Foundation for drug abuse. He was a son of Woodward's husband, Paul Newman, and a previous wife. Scott Newman died as the result of a drug overdose more than a decade ago. So, Woodward has her own goals with this film, too.

It is rare that so many forces with so many goals -- Hallmark's commercial ones, the network's commercial ones and Woodward's social ones -- merge and the viewer comes out a winner. But that's how large Woodward's talent is -- big enough to remind us how good commercial made-for-TV movies can and should more often be.

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