Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ritter, Winkler Turn Dramatic

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ritter, Winkler Turn Dramatic

Article excerpt

THEY'RE both known primarily for comedy, but in a new ABC movie, John Ritter and Henry Winkler turn darkly dramatic.

Ritter and Winkler, longtime acquaintances and past co-hosts on the United Cerebral Palsy "Star-a-Thon," act with each other for the first time in "The Only Way Out," airing at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.

Ritter plays Jeremy, an architect who is going through an amiable divorce while enjoying a relationship with his current live-in love ("Sisters" regular Julianne Phillips). However, matters become complicated when his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Stephanie Faracy) takes up with Tony (Winkler), a man who turns out to have sociopathic tendencies that frighten her children.

When she tries to kick Tony out, he refuses, ultimately drawing Jeremy into the conflict because of his children are involved. Enraged by what he considers meddling, Tony then turns his rage toward Jeremy.

Directed by television veteran Rod Hardy ("Between Love and Hate"), the film - adapted from a British movie entitled "One Way Out" - was co-produced by Ritter's company, Adam Productions.

Ritter, an Emmy winner for "Three's Company" and the current star of "Hearts Afire," isn't a total stranger to drama. On "The Waltons," he played the Rev. Fordwick in early seasons, and and 1986's "Unnatural Causes" cast him as a Vietnam veteran suffering effects of Agent Orange.

But a project like "The Only Way Out" is neverthtless a departure. Ritter recalls having seen the original movie, "One Way Out," a couple of years ago, noting, "I don't know what the stalker laws are in England, but it's a terrifying thing to try to stop someone from harassing you.

"There are some people out there who have unhealthy attachments for one reason or another, but what you don't hear about are the people who use emotional blackmail or non-physical bullying to manipulate others. I think Henry gives a really wonderful, shark-like performance."

Actually, Ritter and "Happy Days" alumnus Winkler were scheduled to team up earlier for an ABC film to have been called "Sob Sisters," which would have kept them in the humorous realm in which they're so established.

"I really loved that and wanted to do it with Henry," Ritter says, "but it just changed hands so many times, I don't know what happened to the script. I liked the original one, but ABC had problems with it, and after being given to three different sets of writers, it finally wrote itself into a museum somewhere.

"Then Henry and I were approached to do a movie called `The Boys,' but we had some questions about that. (Ultimately, ABC made that film with John Lithgow and James Woods as the stars.) We didn't realize that such a heavy, dark piece would give us our first chance to work together, but we've wanted to do it for years. I've known Henry ever since the `Three's Company' days. …

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