Picks and Pans Review: American Playhouse: I Never Sang for My Father

updated 06/20/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Wed., June 15, 9 p.m. ET)

B+

Father-and-son confrontations once were a staple of the American stage and found their height with Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Here's another, a minor classic next to those two plays. Robert Anderson's autobiographical I Never Sang for My Father—written for Broadway in 1968 and produced as a movie starring Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman in 1970—now comes to TV with Harold Gould as the blustery, difficult old pop and Daniel J. Travanti as his insecure son. Travanti's beloved mom (Dorothy McGuire) dies, and then he tries one more time to love his unfeeling, selfish old boor of a father. The play may not be a piece of literary brilliance, but it does do a frighteningly good and honest job of capturing uncomfortable times in life; Anderson has a faultless eye and ear. And while Travanti may come off a touch too wimpy and Gould a bit too mean, both men give their all. What this show may occasionally lack in genius, it makes up for in hard work. It is fine drama.

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