|Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen|
Contractor Doug Salter (Hal Holbrook) has divorced his wife and is in a relationship with musician Gary McClain (Martin Sheen). When his teenage son, Nick (Scott Jacoby) comes for a visit, he has to deal -- although he doesn't want to -- with the boy's eventual realization of his father's sexual orientation. This was the first made-for-TV movie to deal fairly positively with the subject of gay relationships. The focus is perhaps more on the father-son relationship than it is with the lovers, although they are portrayed as normal human beings and not losers or freaks. It is likely that Broadcast Standards and Practices (the TV censors of the time) probably imposed a speech in which Doug wonders if homosexuality is a "sickness" and says "if I had a choice it's not what I would choose for myself." In spite of this, the gay relationship is in no way presented as being abnormal, and it is made clear that Doug is much more conservative than the younger and more liberated Gary. The entire cast gives excellent performances, including Hope Lange [Peyton Place] as Doug's ex-wife; Jan Shepard [Attack of the Giant Leeches] as Gary's sister; Joe Don Baker [Criminal Law] as his brother-in-law; and Marlyn Mason as a client of Doug's who has romantic feelings for him.
Verdict: Whatever its flaws -- and it has them -- this frank, mostly intelligent film was certainly a step in the right direction. ***.