Every Second Counts



Airdate: 9-11 p.m. Saturday, July 12 (Hallmark).

It doesn’t quite take Einstein to uncover the double meaning in the title of this new Hallmark Channel original, the first to air in the wake of the merciful end of the channel’s exclusive deal with Hallmark Entertainment that had resulted in endless movies about runaway viruses and jetliners in distress. (Or was it the other way around?)

In any event, this one returns Hallmark to the heart-tugging family roots more befitting a greeting-card conglom. Any time you have Stephen Collins around, you know that goodness and humanity can’t be too far away. Sure enough, “Every Second Counts” uses the sport of rodeo team penning as a prism through which to show a family triumphing through adversity. The equation seems to be the greater the feeling of humiliation, the greater the likelihood of uncovering a happy ending.

Indeed, for 90% of the film, this thing plays more like “Every Second Sucks.” Collins portrays a dude who’d had his own rodeo dreams cut short by a serious injury, and now he’s trying to live vicariously through his daughter, Brooke (Magda Apanowicz). She’s smart, tough and cute in a tomboyish way. Her dad, an auto mechanic, allows the rodeo thing to sap his work ethic to such a point that he gets fired from his job. The bank forecloses on the house. His wife (Barbara Williams) -- who drove down all of her own dreams to support her man -- now finds herself on the verge of being homeless because this dude can’t get his friggin’ act together. Arguments erupt. Horses drop dead. We seem mere minutes away from one of those tragic murder-suicide scenarios. Their misery is our misery.

Then you remember that this is Hallmark, which means the cavalry is right around the bend. That invariably makes “Second” a sappy, maudlin affair, though not without its measure of charm. Most of that comes from Collins, the “7th Heaven” alum who clearly knows his way around a positive values story line. Apanowicz also carries herself with a quiet charisma that leaves it obvious why she’d attract the affections of a hunky athlete (Brett Dier).

This emerges as something of a prototype wholesome drama that embodies a tone far more in keeping with the Hallmark image. And it surely beats idiotic terrorist wacko fare any day of the week.