Picks and Pans Review: The Deliberate Stranger
updated 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Watching murderers commit their horrendous crimes is, at the least, an odd form of voyeurism. A weird way to be entertained. But sometimes, compelling drama does come from such subject matter. Fatal Vision, for example, deepened the mystery around Capt. Jeffrey McDonald, the doctor convicted of murdering his family. That mini made you wonder, as McDonald's friends did, how such a man could possibly have done such a thing. The Deliberate Stranger tries to do the same with Ted Bundy. He was a smart, handsome, charming law student and an up-and-comer in Seattle politics. He also was convicted of three murders and suspected in at least 33 others. Since the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his March execution, he now sits on Florida's death row. But unlike Fatal Vision, this four-hour miniseries doesn't try to give you new insight into the sick mystery of Ted Bundy. Instead, the show gives you a lifeless chronology of his crimes. Women appear in the story; Bundy charms them; women disappear—again and again. The script makes lazy stabs at irony: Before Bundy's arrest, a friend says, "We'll all be saying we knew him when." After the arrest, the friend says, "The Ted I know couldn't do anything like that." No attempt is made to explain—or even ask—how Bundy's girlfriend, played by Glynnis O'Connor, could go to the police with suspicions about Bundy but still stay with him. And the police, led by Frederic (The Rose) Forrest, get little chance to show off their sleuthing. There are only a few good moments in Stranger, most thanks to Mark (St. Elsewhere) Harmon, who takes on the vague appearance of a shark when he hunts for women. And in a few scenes, the show does poignantly portray the pain of victims' families (though one potentially moving moment—the mother of a dead girl writing a letter to the imprisoned Bundy—is thrown away in one line of dialogue). The Deliberate Stranger looks like a fast and messy attempt to use murder to get ratings.