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TNTs Baby a Tearjerker

Turner Network Television'sBabystarts slowly, but builds into an emotional family drama about sorrow and redemption.

Early on, it takes too long to learn that Lily and John Malone recently lost a newborn son to a genetic heart condition, and blame one another for the situation. We also find out later that John (Keith Carradine) left a Boston newspaper job to live on a small New England island community, Northport (actually, Nova Scotia).

Lily is Farrah Fawcett's best role since NBC'sThe Burning Bedand should help viewers forget that weird appearance onLate Show with David Lettermana while back. Carradine, Jean Stapleton and Ann Dowd also are top-notch.

But the performer who brings the most to this heartfelt drama is Alison Pill as the Malones' daughter, Larkin.

No sooner is the island's summer season over than John finds a basket on their porch containing a baby, Sophie, and a note saying the mother can't care for her but will return "some day."

The title actually refers to two babies. One is Sophie, and Larkin soon is torn between being happy over the fact that Sophie's rekindled her parents closeness and angry that they've seemed to have forgotten her baby brother, whom they never even named. His nearby tombstone reads simply, "Baby."

When Sophie's mother starts sending letters and gifts, Larkin hides them, fearful the family's new happiness will disappear.

This well-crafted movie-which, like Patricia MacLachlan's novel, is divided into seasons-makes some revisions to the book upon which it's based. But they're mostly improvements, no doubt because she helped write and produce the teleplay.

Kudos also go to director Robert Allan Ackerman, who also directed Fawcett inExtremities, and executive producers David Manson and Glenn Close.

Still, there are some odd moments. In the opening scene, John tap dances on a tabletop and drinks whiskey. Later, he taps to put the newfound baby to sleep.

Also, Close's narration of Sophie's infant memories, though taken from the book, only slow the story's flow.

In a secondary story line, Larkin's teacher, Ms. Minifred (Dowd), and her boyfriend, the school's poetry-loving janitor (Sebastian Roche) provide a good laugh at the end, related to his "Wild Eunice" tattoo-one of the movie's few light moments.

The novel ends 10 years later, with a very brief reunion of Sophie and the family that raised her. Maybe there's a TNT sequel there?

TNT'sBaby, bowing Oct. 8 at 8 P.M.., will repeat seven times in October.