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TV Reviews: A&E show recounts local murder

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

A&E's "American Justice" examines a local case in "While the Children Slept," a pulpy title for the story of an already dramatic crime.

Tim Boczkowski is the subject of "American Justice." During the show, his children comment on the case. (Gary Tramontina, Associated Press)

Narrated and hosted by Bill Kurtis, "American Justice" does for criminals what VH1 does for musicians. Instead of "Behind the Music," viewers get "Behind the Murder," told in a style that emphasizes the drama of the cases involved.

For anyone familiar with the case of Timothy Boczkowski, sentenced to death after being convicted in 1999 of murdering his second wife in their Ross home hot tub, this hour of "American Justice" will offer few, if any, revelations. It recounts the murder of his first wife in their North Carolina bathtub and reconstructs telltale signs leading up to the murder of his second wife, Maryann, in 1993.

"This man's got to be the unluckiest man in the world to lose two wives in a hot tub and bathtub or this is a homicide," says Ross police officer Gary Waters, one of many local people interviewed.

What's most interesting is the opportunity to hear from Boczkowski's children, Randy, Sandy and Todd, whom he had with his first wife. Their participation may seem surprising -- one could understand if they would just want to be left alone after all the public scrutiny -- but chances are "While the Children Slept" would have been produced with or without their cooperation, so they might as well be involved, to have at least a little bit of say in how the story is told.

 
 
TV Reviews

American Justice
While the Children Slept"

When: 9 tonight on A&E

Host: Bill Kurtis


"Worst-Case Scenario"

When: 9 tonight on TBS.

Host: Mike Rowe

   
 

Todd, the youngest, is seen the most. He's identified as a high school junior, and he's articulate and thoughtful. None of the children would speak of their current relationship with their father, but Todd seems the most pragmatic about the situation, acknowledging if he were on his father's jury and heard the same testimony, he probably would have chosen to convict him, too. But that's not necessarily how he feels as a son.

"No matter what, both my moms won't come back," Todd says near the end of the hour. "So why should I think about whether he's guilty or innocent? Whether he's guilty or innocent, I'm still going to love him."

'Worst Case Scenario'

TBS's lawyers could be busy after the cable channel's latest original series premieres.

Based on the tongue-in-cheek "Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook," the network's newest program is a straightforward reality show that offers tips on how to get out of scrapes. For instance, it depicts how best to jump off a building.

Despite copious warnings at the outset, "Worst-Case Scenario" could easily inspire copycat stunts. Hey, at least when a teen-ager leaps to his death from a six-story building, he'll know what he should have done.

"Don't jump and push, let gravity do the trick," advises a stunt woman.

"Tip: Use proper footwear," says an on-screen graphic.

In addition to taking the heat off NBC's "Fear Factor," "WCS" shows a wilderness survival competition between two guys. And there's a mother who's terrified of jumping off a cliff, so she agrees to fly to Connecticut to do just that.

"Mom, you're doing great!" her child screams as she shakes with fear on a cliff 41 feet above a water-filled quarry.

Another segment uses a mix of home video footage and newly recorded interviews to re-create the day in September 2000 when Andy Judy of Morgantown, W.Va., went skydiving near Connellsville Airport and got his jumpsuit snagged on the plane's step. The plane ultimately landed, dragging Judy behind.

"Worst-case scenarios are an inevitable fact of life," says host Mike Rowe, trying to make the series sound for all the world like a public service instead of what it is, a crass and dangerous attempt to jump onto the reality bandwagon.

The best-case scenario for viewers will be that this show goes away quickly.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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