'Mulvaneys' worth a look

The Lifetime Network takes a welcome departure from its "women in peril" movie franchise to present a truly superior television film. Blythe Danner and Beau Bridges star in the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' best-selling novel "We Were the Mulvaneys" (8 p.m.). But the movie truly belongs to the astounding young talent Tammy Blanchard, winner of a Golden Globe for her memorable turn as the tortured young performer in "Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows."

Blanchard portrays Marianne, the perfect daughter of the happy Mulvaney family. Patriarch Michael (Bridges) has built a successful construction business from scratch. He and his beautiful farm-raised wife Corinne (Danner) embarrass their four teenage children with their undiminished affection.

Recently welcomed into the country club set, the Mulvaneys appear to be on the brink of social success when tragedy strikes. Marianne is raped at a school dance by Zachary Lundt (Shawn Roberts), the rich, spoiled son of one of the town's movers and shakers. Michael reacts violently to the news, and then slowly and steadily disintegrates as the town recoils from his family. For reasons never adequately explained here, he banishes Marianne from the household, unleashing anger and resentments that will tear the family apart.

Set in the shaggy 1970s and narrated by Judd (Thomas Guiry), the youngest son, "Mulvaneys" may remind some viewers of "The Ice Storm." But while that film bounced from one stylish dysfunction to another, this is a much darker tale that draws upon deeper literary sources. It explores how one act of random violence can test a good and happy family and plunge them into dark chaos.

� HBO will rebroadcast episodes of its ten-part miniseries "Band of Brothers" (8 p.m.) every Monday night, beginning tonight. Costing an estimated $125 million, this television movie rivals any big screen war epic in lavish production values, attention to detail and the depiction of harrowing combat action. For all of these strengths, "Brothers" does not measure up to the character-driven dramas viewers have come to expect from HBO.

Tonight's other highlights

� Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star in the 1998 comedy "The Wedding Singer" (7 p.m., Fox). The mid-season drama "American Embassy" has been canceled.

� "Let's Bowl" (7 p.m., Comedy Central), the campy Minneapolis-based bowling comedy returns for a second season.

� Two of Alex's pals move into his posh pad to check up on his harem of desperate contestants on "The Bachelor" (8 p.m., ABC).

� David Suchet stars in "The Way We Live Now" on "Masterpiece Theatre" (8 p.m., PBS).

� The mini-series "Shackleton" (8 p.m., A&E;), starring Kenneth Branagh, concludes.

� Garrett's drifter father (Carl Reiner) resurfaces on "Crossing Jordan" (9 p.m., NBC).

� Lily's mother shows signs of Alzheimer's disease on "Once and Again" (9 p.m., ABC). This series will air its final episode next Monday.

Cult Choice

� Remember the brief "virtual reality" craze? Jennifer Jason Leigh stars in the 1999 sci-fi drama "eXistenZ" (8 p.m., Sci-Fi) as a cyber-game designer trapped in her own creation. Directed by David Cronenberg.

Series notes

� A scouting rivalry on "Yes, Dear" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Joe Rogan hosts "Fear Factor" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Favorite Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC)... Tolerance on "The Hughleys" (7 p.m., UPN) ... On back-to-back episodes of "7th Heaven" (WB), Matt meets his prospective in-laws (Laraine Newman and Richard Lewis) (7 p.m.), the kids stay out all night (8 p.m.).


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