9-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
In the annals of television movies, there have been takes and retakes on the theme of custody battles over kids. In the obviously titled “Custody,” Lifetime Television’s latest entry into the genre, the battle is about as weak and lethargic as they come. The drama, starring Rob Morrow and James Denton, is pat, overly familiar and dramatically anemic. Still, for those who like watching two men wage the familiar war of words over a young teen, the story might hold some interest.
Morrow (“Numbers”) plays a widowed college professor whose 13-year-old stepdaughter (Kay Panabaker) is almost too well adjusted to be believed. She lost her mother to cancer when she was 6, and Morrow hasn’t been able to tell her that she has a biological father somewhere out there. Then said father (Denton) shows up to claim custody, and the battle ensues.
But it’s hardly a battle. Director Nadia Tass can’t seem to manage the dramatic end of things. Actors talk at each other instead of making genuine contact; the story moves at such a snail’s pace that it’s hard to care about the people. Much of the problem rests with Kathy Kloves’ weak teleplay. There is little connection between characters because they utter little more than cliches; their situations (which should hold some dramatic import) come off as formulaic and uninteresting.
Morrow looks comfortable as a college professor who has given up on having any great career. He’s pretty lethargic here as a dad who never got around to telling his daughter that he’s not her biological father (that one is a little hard to believe since he’s had six or seven years to do it).
When Denton (“Desperate Housewives”) walks into the picture, the drama hardly kicks up. There should be fireworks between these men, or at least some emotional or verbal sparring, but none occurs at any point in the story. The so-called battle that ensues is no conflict at all: Sort-of-bad father (the one who hasn’t been around all these years) gets custody of daughter and leaves hero out in cold. But maybe not for long.
For anyone who knows this formula, the territory is all too familiar and sleepy to hold any dramatic surprises.
Jaffe/Braunstein for Lifetime Television
Executive producers: Howard Braunstein, Michael Jaffe, Gail Lyon
Director: Nadia Tass
Producer: David Patterson
Teleplay: Kathy Kloves
Director of photography: David Parker
Music: Chris Hajian
Editor: Michael Pacek
Production designer: Jean-Baptiste Tard
Casting: Kathleen Letterie
David Gordon: Rob Morrow
John Sullivan: James Denton
Amanda Gordon: Kay Panabaker
Megan: Robin Brule
Eugene: Sergio Di Zio