The Joanne Vannicola Website

Kids SOURCE: Ken Tucker: Television CBS Schoolbreak Special: Maggie's Secret

Aires Tuesday, April 10, (1990) 4-5 P.M.

Maggie's Secret is one of those TV movies that nearly fail by being so successful. That is to say, this hour-long drama about the child of alcoholic parents is so convincingly done that it's almost unwatchably depressing.

Fifteen-year-old Maggie (Joanne Vannicola) holds her family together: Both her mother (Mimi Kuzyk) and her father (Joseph Bottoms) drink excessively, and Maggie ends up running the household and overseeing her younger brother, John (Nathaniel Moreau). As a result, her schoolwork suffers and her personal life is nearly nonexistent.

Vannicola, who looks like a young Joan Jett, is exceptionally subtle, registering gradations of shame and despair on her face. Her Maggie is wonderfully ordinary, neither too precocious nor too much a victim, and therefore all the more believable.

The teleplay, by Dennis Foon and Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, attempts to dramatize recent research about the children of alcoholics, the painful cycles of guilt, anger, and fear they endure as they try to keep their parents' alcoholism a secret from the outside world.

The script is a well-intentioned effort, but too often Maggie and John spout psychobabble speeches that seem far too sophisticated for them.

Still, Maggie's Secret gets a lot of the details right, which means that it depicts the life of a young person so hurt, confused, and unhappy that it seems rude to be watching her. The hour's hastily arrived-at happy ending is insulting to the viewer-no problem this major is solved with a single heart- to-heart, daughter-parent chat. It's also a merciful gesture, though, a respite from all the pain we've been watching. B+

Author not available, Kids SOURCE: Ken Tucker: TELEVISION CBS SCHOOLBREAK SPECIAL MAGGIE'S SECRET CBS, TUE., APRIL 10, 4-5 P.M.. , Entertainment Weekly, 04-06-1990, pp 74.

(Joanne won an Emmy Award for this performance.)

Copyright (c) 2000-2003 by .  All rights reserved.
This page may be reprinted for personal reading use only.  Any other uses of this page are strictly
prohibited without the specific written consent of the author. If you have questions, suggestions, or
comments about this site, email me at , or fill out the Comments page.
For technical problems regarding this site, contact .

This page was last updated: May 20, 2006