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Picks and Pans Review: Silencing Mary

updated 03/09/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1998 01:00AM

NBC (Sun., March 8, 9 p.m. ET)

C-

This is a TV movie about the alleged rape of a university student named Holly (Lisa Dean Ryan) by the school's top football player, Clay (Josh Hopkins). Then again, "maybe it's not just about Holly," says her roommate Mary, who covers the story for the campus newspaper. Indeed it's much more about Mary—probably because the title character is played by Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), described in NBC publicity as "the most popular young female star in television today." Given that Hart's mother, Paula Hart, is executive producer and her sister Trisha suggested the story idea and is billed as a coproducer, it would be an upset if Mary weren't the most dynamic investigative journalist since Brenda Starr.

Criminal acts by college athletes are a real problem, but realism here runs second to glorification of the heroine. When she's not accepting kudos ("Holly's really lucky to have a friend like you...I think what you're doing is important—not just because it's right but because you care"), Mary is confronting the slippery dean of students (Peter MacNicol), standing up to vengeful jocks and telling her paper's pliant faculty moderator (James Mc-Daniel) what to print. The persistent problem with her investigation is a lack of physical evidence that Clay had sex with Holly, but Mary catches an incredible break in the fourth quarter and rushes quarterback Clay with just seconds left.

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