Picks and Pans Review: Small Sacrifices

updated 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

(ABC, Sun. and Tues., Nov. 12 and 14, 9 P.M. ET)

A

For actors, finding an appropriate TV movie can be like a recurring nightmare of going to the school library the day before the class project is due. The stacks are picked pretty clean on a regular basis. All that is left are dusty biopics and harrowing headline sagas.

Having suffered through one of the former with the Margaret Bourke-White story on TNT seven months ago, Farrah Fawcett has a smashing success with an example of the latter in this two-part docudrama about Diane Downs, an Oregon woman convicted of murdering one of her three children in 1983.

Fawcett gives a cagey, convincing performance as an unsympathetic character. John Shea, so good in the recent CBS movie Do You Know the Muffin Man?, is less intense here as the driven assistant D.A. who begins to shred Downs's story of a stranger attacking her and her kids on a remote road. Ryan O'Neal, sinking slowly into supporting-actor status, sleepwalks through the role of her former lover.

No matter. It's Fawcett, fascinating in this atypical sociopath role, who makes this miniseries engrossing.

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