Picks and Pans Review: Children in the Crossfire

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

NBC (Monday, Dec. 3, 9 p.m. ET)

The opening scene sends you reeling: On a street in Belfast, kids play among green-garbed British troops. Their soccer ball goes out of bounds—to the feet of a young soldier. He gives the kids a wary glance and they return it; he starts to grin and kick the ball back. Just then a bullet pierces his uniform. You're led to think that this is going to be the powerful and poignant story of the child warriors of Northern Ireland. It is. But next you find yourself in California as an Irish American, Vincent Lavery (played by Naill Toibin), tells a TV news crew about his plan to bring pairs of Northern Irish children—one Catholic, one Protestant—to live with American families for a summer. "Can it stop the troubles?" he says. "Of course it can't. I'm looking for small victories." That's how you'll see the story, based on the real-life efforts of Lavery. He recruits families in America, and a Catholic priest and a Protestant rector find the kids in Belfast—meeting resistance both from the children and from their parents. But the project comes together. Co-star and co-producer Charles (Hill Street Blues) Haid and his TV wife, Karen Valentine, get two girls. The Catholic girl (Geraldine Hughes) saw her father killed by the IRA for being a snitch. She attempted suicide. The Protestant girl (Grainne Clarke) says, "I never met a Catholic in my whole life until I got on the plane." Another couple, Julia Duffy and David Huffman, get two boys (James Norris and Peter Gilroy). Of course, there are problems. After an IRA bombing in London, the Catholic girl, with frightening glee in her eyes, asks, "How many did we get? How many?" And the Protestant girl screams, "I hate you all!" But the show, to its credit, does not dwell on such scenes. Instead, Crossfire just tries to show four kids who've been given a rare chance to be young. And it succeeds, thanks to the Irish children who play these parts. First-time actors all, they do a remarkable job. Children in the Crossfire is a simple story about small victories and it is a touching one.

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