`An Enemy Among Us' tackles a difficult theme. CBS moves youth drama on AIDS to prime-time viewing hour
New York — An Enemy Among Us CBS, tonight, 8-9 o'clock. Stars: Dee Wallace Stone and Danny Nucci. Writer: Joseph Maurer. Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman. Producer: Dale White. This disturbing but compassionate drama deals with the excruciating personal problems of young people under the cloud of AIDS.
It not only focuses on the difficulty of devising a just and humane public policy on AIDS and its precursor, AIDS-related complex (ARC), but it delves perceptively into the complex psychological challenges for AIDS victims, their families, friends, and schoolmates.
Originally conceived as a youth-oriented ``CBS Schoolbreak Special,'' this program was slotted for late-afternoon airing. Fortunately, CBS executives realized that the importance of its theme and the skillful handling of that theme demanded a prime-time place in the schedule, when more young people - and adults - could watch it.
The drama makes clear that the enemy among us is AIDS - not victims of AIDS - and it points a finger at society's sometime lack of compassion toward those victims. The freewheeling sexual habits of the past few decades also come in for criticism.
The story concerns a teen-age boy diagnosed as having contracted ARC through a blood transfusion. His agony after being told that he stands a 30 percent chance of developing AIDS is investigated sensitively, as are his relationships with his family, school, and girlfriend, as well as with other girls.
An AIDS specialist, played understandingly by singer Gladys Knight in one of her rare dramatic appearances, functions as a sort of Greek chorus, voicing the physical, psychological, and social implications of the disease.
``There have always been valid religious, moral, and emotional reasons to wait [before having sex],'' she warns the teen-agers, ``and now there is another reason: AIDS.''
Some adults may cringe at the borderline bathos in the handling of the relationahip between the ARC-diagnosed boy and his fearful girlfriend. But the unrequited relationship will probably strike young viewers as a kind of latter-day Romeo and Juliet story. AIDS is often the disastrous end to happily-ever-after fantasies, and the program underlines that it is important for young people to realize this - especially since recent reports indicate that the AIDS epidemic could expand rapidly in their midst unless changes in sexual mores take place immediately.
``An Enemy Among Us'' doesn't make for easy viewing - it is a case-history drama, sometimes a bit oversimplified, sometimes a bit soppy, but always poignant in its earnest try for relevance. There is bitterness, disappointment, despair. The drama indicates that if there is hope, it lies in change taking place among those viewers whose conduct contributes to the problem.
The issues need to be discussed. That's why it is especially urgent that young people and their parents view this shattering program together.