The latest TV movie from the NBC-Walmart-Proctor & Gamble family friendly triad airs this Saturday, Sept. 3, at 8/7c on NBC: "Game Time: Tackling the Past".
It's a football movie starring Catherine Hicks and Beau Bridges as the parents whose oldest son Jake (Ryan McPartlin) is a pro football player. While his achievements on the field have brought him near a place in the Hall of Fame, his career and ambition have kept him from his family for 15 years. When his dad has a major heart attack, Jake goes home to more devastating news.
This is a rather formulaic made-for-TV movie, but the cast and performances are appealing, especially from Hicks and Bridges. The unique thing about previewing the film was that the marketing company organized an online screening with Hicks, who plays the peace-keeper in the family. During the screening journalists could log in and type-chat with Hicks throughout. I really enjoyed this -- it was as if we were all sitting in a living room chatting while watching, just like families do.
Some of the things we talked about were the lack of diversity in this "Family Movie Night" series and who the intended audience really is. One journalist said she was Hispanic-African-American and white, and that the film appealed to her, even though the film is almost 100 percent white. She liked the story and said she and her family would watch.
Hicks, the mom in the long-running television series "7th Heaven", admitted that she is a total football fan, as she graduated from St. Mary's College across from Notre Dame University. Hicks is a practicing Catholic and we know one another from her visits to our bookstore here in Culver City, Calif. It was fun reading her responses to comments and the journalists' (about 26 participated) comments and questions.
This is the fourth film out of eight in this series that I have seen. The best so far was the spy mystery "Who is Simon Miller?"  that aired in August.
I give credit to NBC and the sponsors for offering sanitized primetime stories that most of the family could watch if they wanted to. The question is: will they want to? I think they have a ways to go to capture the imagination of more families out there.
If a family can really get into the story, there are salient themes to talk about -- besides the fact that Walmart and P&G are branding our eye balls by trying to create warm, fuzzy connections between the movie and their products.
For more information about this film and previous TV movies in the series, visit NBC Family Movie Night: http://www.familymovienight.com/