Sela Ward's supporting cast , which includes Susanna Thompson and Jeffrey Nordling, delivers in the hit TV-series

By Ken Tucker
Updated December 22, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

As nuzzling cuties Rick and Lily, Billy Campbell and Sela Ward are the visual lures of ABC’s Once and Again, but their extended families lend the duo emotional heft. Their exes, played by Susanna Thompson (a fine paradox of brittleness and determination) and Jeffrey Nordling (he makes hollow bluster poignant), both fine-tune the nuances of rejection, bitterness, and resignation without being downers. As for the kids in this fractured-family saga, O&ampiA features TV’s top teen tag team. On Rick’s side: Shane West may be the series’ designated hunk, but his Eli is a surprisingly pensive lunkhead. Evan Rachel Wood, as Jessie, carried the show’s recent anorexia story line with a heartbreaking fragility. On Lily’s side: Meredith Deane’s Zoe is a squeezably quizzical moppet, while Julia Whelan plays Grace with — well, grace. She’s prime time’s only touchy, sullen adolescent we don’t want to send to her room.