Picks and Pans Review: Heartsounds

updated 10/01/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sunday, Sept. 30, 9 p.m. ET)

Here's tough, human, emotional television at its best—and most wrenching. James Garner plays Harold Lear, a doctor who suffers a heart attack and never fully recovers. Mary Tyler Moore is Martha, his wife, a New York reporter who wrote a book about his illness. This is the Lears' true story. You see them first as a healthy, loving couple. In an airport scene the daughter of a former patient calls Garner a god. Then Garner kisses his wife goodbye as she heads off to Paris on assignment. "Does a god," Moore asks, "fondle his wife's rear end in public?" They're very healthy. Soon Garner has his heart attack. What follows are four years of pain, of frustration with Garner's unfeeling medical colleagues ("Every doctor," the physician turned patient says, "should spend at least one week a year in a hospital bed"), of complications including brain damage, of crumbling and dying very slowly. The Marcus Welby-esque music is distracting. And there are some weak spots in the characterizations. But such problems become trivial. Moore (who's a patient herself these days—see story, page 38) is as stirring as she was in Ordinary People. Garner is just as good. These two likable, usually comic actors do a spectacular job of making their sorrow real. Almost too real for comfort.

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