By Ken Tucker
Updated November 08, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

My Son Johnny

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Rick Schroder adds to his list of impressive TV-movie roles with My Son Johnny‘s Johnny Cortino, a drug-dealing little weasel who abuses his younger brother, Anthony (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose‘s Corin Nemec). Anthony can finally stand it no longer, and shoots his big brother dead. Knots Landing‘s Michele Lee plays their mother, Marianne, as a dowdy working-class woman with a strong Italian accent. As skilled as she has been on Knots, Lee isn’t very convincing here.

After the killing, we’re supposed to think that she’s torn: Anthony is on trial for murder, and Marianne has to testify on his behalf, to confirm that Johnny bullied and beat his brother, but Marianne adored Johnny despite the fact that he was a creep. This all seems ridiculous; Schroder is so good at portraying the evil Johnny — he lets his bright eyes grow dim and his bright smile curdle into a menacing smirk — that Marianne’s crisis seems absurdly overstated: How could she remain loyal to this coldblooded monster?

A CBS press release listed Michael Gross (Family Ties) as playing the part of Anthony’s lawyer; it’s actually performed by Rip Torn. That character doesn’t appear until nearly halfway through the film, and I like to imagine that the person writing the release was so bored by the movie that he or she just wrote down the first name that came to mind and said the heck with it. I was tempted to do the same thing. D

Episode Recaps

My Son Johnny

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