24 October 2002 | petershelleyau
Black and Blue Sisters
Mel Harris is Kathy Arnold, the only female member of the LAPD K-9 team, who suffers sexual harassment and sues the City of Long Beach for damages, along with Miranda Berkley (Melissa Gilbert) who suffers harassment in the Patrol unit. Kathy's treatment is presented as more life threatening than Miranda's when Kathy is the decoy in a training session and dogs are sent by her male colleagues to attack her. Kathy is married to Rob (Cotter Smith) and it's curious to see how Smith resembles Ken Olin, Harris' husband in her TV series thirtysomething.
Here however Harris wears her hair off her forehead, when we are used to seeing her sporting bangs, and she is more believable than Gilbert, playing a woman who is supposed to be both physically imposing and sexually irresistible to her superior Harry McCarthy (Peter Onorati) and whose harassment is a consequence of the end of the affair. Although later, Harris changes her hair to a less flattering flapper bob, her tears in closeup at the testimony of Rob, and her arrogant reaction to a false apology from a man in the K-9 team, are her best moments.
The teleplay by Marjorie David and Alison Cross, based on a true story, portrays male police officers as juveniles, who became policemen `to kick butt', and how perhaps because of the nature of police work they form incestuous personal relationships with other police officers. The narrative is framed with testimony at the trial and flashbacks to the events which lead to the civil court case. Both women are shown to be suffering depression with long term psychological `damage' and prepared to sacrifice their careers. Ron contends that Kathy is no longer the same woman he married because of the stress of her ordeal, which contextualises Harris' wig.
Director Paul Schneider builds suspense in the scenes where Kathy waits as decoy for the approaching search dogs, lets us enjoy Holland Taylor as the women's later, in quite a substantial supporting role, but strangely pans across the faces of the jury when Miranda gives her testimony.