If Gary David Goldberg’s Dad proves anything, it’s that Ted Danson is an underrated leading man. It isn’t hard to figure out why. His athletic good looks and skill at Cheers-style light comedy probably keep the moguls from taking him seriously. But that’s a waste. Someday, when the years have etched some character into Danson’s face, a smart director will match him up with a meaty script and he’ll surprise a lot of people.

Dad isn’t that picture.

In fact, it isn’t even the picture one expected from its coming attractions. The Dad that was advertised seemed to be a bittersweet movie about coming to terms with family and facing one’s mortality. The movie that writer-director Goldberg actually fashioned (from William Wharton’s book) is just an average made-for-TV Disease-of-the-Week movie (three diseases, actually) with Jack Lemmon doing a glorified character part as Dad and Danson chewing most of the scenery as his son.

Mostly, this is predictable stuff with long stretches of tedium. When it’s all over you’re apt to wonder what the point is. Well, the point is that if you make an even remotely serious domestic comedy-drama these days, somebody is going to mistake you for Chekhov, even if your sensibility is strictly prime time. Still, Danson’s performance is much better than the material demands, and years from now — when the idea of a great Ted Danson picture sounds plausible — Dad may look like the start of something interesting.

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