Picks and Pans Review: American Playhouse: the Trial of Bernhard Goetz

updated 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/16/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Wed., May 11, 9 p.m. ET)


Yes, but why? Certainly the country was transfixed by the case of Bernhard Goetz, the Dirty Harry—no, Nerdy Harry—who shot four youths on a New York subway. But why so soon after his trial, which ended only last June, is PBS rehashing this overexposed tale yet again? The producers took 4,600 pages of trial transcripts, edited them down to fill two weeks' shows and then hired a talented if mostly unknown cast to act it out—Peter Crombie as Goetz, Richard (Fletch) Libertini as his attorney, Larry B. Scott as one of the wounded youths. So this is a reenactment more than it is a drama, which makes it difficult to see what, if anything, the producers have to say about Goetz. They can give us no new perspective on the case—it's way too early for that. Neither can they expect us to learn much from the inarticulate stammerings of Goetz, who admits in his video confession that "nothing I'm going to say is going to make sense, okay?" He tells how to "lay out your pattern of fire" and complains that he wanted to kill the youths but "my problem is, I ran out of bullets." This is not a spokesman for our times. The show delivers some gripping moments but in the end gives us no more than newspapers and TV news did during the trial. So the question remains: Why make it? And why watch?

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