Lifetime Sends Heroic Message

Ordinary women who have blasted through extraordinary obstacles are at the core of Lifetime Television's third annual Our Lifetime Commitment: Be Your Own Hero

The programming block, produced in partnership with the Ms.
Foundation for Women, includes Intimate Portrait
episodes on Sherry Lansing, the trailblazing Paramount Pictures executive; and former Democratic vice presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro.

Those are the headliners, but the campaign seeks to convey that one doesn't have to head a corporation to be a hero in one's own life. Underscoring this message is the opening special, Our Heroes, Ourselves, hosted by Marlo Thomas.

The story of Diane Wilson of Sea Drift, Texas, is patterned after that of Erin Brockovich. The shrimp boat worker was galvanized into becoming an environmentalist in 1989 when she read a news article that identified her county as the most-polluted locale in the U.S.

She targeted a local plastics factory and publicized its waste procedures until the company signed a zero-discharge pledge to end the bad publicity.

Meanwhile, Maria Gomez Murphy — who grew up in the Los Angeles barrio and was educated at Stanford University — pursues better medical care for the poor. Returning to her roots, she's bucking the medical establishment with the concept of the "democratization" of health care.

Isis Sapp Grant has also broken the bonds of poverty. Having rejected her former gang, she now endeavors as a clinical social worker.

The youngest role model is Jaki-Lyn Taylor, who has managed to make it to adulthood, even though she's spent time in 40 different foster homes. Now 19, she's on the staff of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

The profiles are succinct, in part because a portion of the hour goes to host Thomas. But her segments detract from the subjects and don't really add any insight. This shortcoming is most evident during Thomas's rather silly adventure on the streets of Manhattan.

A bewigged Thomas, as a lost tourist, talks about "little things" we could do to help each other daily. She's ignored until finally a man stops to ask if she's lost. His reason?

"I guess 'cause you were blond," he said. Is that a message that needs to be reinforced?

The time would have been better spent at the end, when the profile subjects meet in New York. It would have been more interesting hearing them share strategies from their individual struggles.

Our Heroes, Ourselves
debuts May 16 at 7 p.m. EDT.