Picks and Pans Review: Mandela

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sun., Sept. 20, 8 p.m. ET)

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If cable shows could win Emmys, here's one that should win a few. But cable can't—not unless the rules change this year. So HBO sticks its tongue out at the Emmy Awards marathon on Fox this Sunday by presenting, as competition, the magnificent Mandela. Danny Glover plays Nelson Mandela, who has spent 25 years in South African prisons for the crime of opposing apartheid. Alfre Woodard is his wife, Winnie, who also was jailed because "I didn't marry a man—I married a struggle." The show has some weaknesses. Toward the end Woodard lapses into an impersonation of Winnie that distracts from her strong message. Some of the accents are too thick and some of the supporting performances too thin. But the story Mandela tells is so wrenching, so powerful and so inspiring that it overcomes any small cracks in the production. It is impossible to watch child-size coffins being buried in Soweto and not feel rage and pain over South Africa's tyranny. It is impossible to watch the Mandelas' life stories and not be lifted by their courage.

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