Female character in 'Medicine' apparently is guilty of that other capital A sin: Ambition

NURSING A GRUDGE?

November 11, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

It's Women Who Kill, Part II, tonight at 9 on WMAR-TV (Channel 2), as Veronica Hamel and Susan Ruttan star in "Deadly Medicine."

Last night, in "Wife, Mother, Murderer," ABC offered viewers Judith Light as a woman who poisoned her husband and tried to kill her daughter. Tonight, NBC offers Ruttan as a nurse who kills babies. And, yes, this film, too, we are told, is "inspired by real events."

"Deadly Medicine" takes place in Texas. A young pediatrician, Dr. Kathleen Holland (Hamel), has set up a new practice with a nurse, Genene Jones (Ruttan).

When one of Dr. Holland's first patients dies mysteriously, questions start to get asked. Just about everybody comes up with the answer that she killed the baby.

Dr. Holland loses almost everything -- her new home, a ranch, her practice and husband -- before she can bring Nurse Jones to trial for the death of the infant. During the investigation, Nurse Jones is also implicated in the deaths of 30 other infants during a one-year period of previous employment.

"Deadly Medicine" is good entertainment and fascinating sociology. Veronica Hamel is a fine actress whose work here will remind some viewers how much they miss those rainy-night, bedroom scenes between her and Daniel J. Travanti in "Hill Street Blues." Ruttan deftly plays Nurse Jones as believably crazy-sane-crazy.

But, again, it's the idea of the woman who murders instead of nurtures that's so interesting -- both as you watch the screen and to wonder about after the credits role. Like the killer in "Wife, Mother Murderer," Nurse Jones' evil is attributed to her being overly ambitious by the male authority figure in the film. Not since Lady Macbeth has female ambition taken such a pasting.

Why is this theme now surfacing in TV entertainment -- especially male-dominated productions -- and what's it saying about us?

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