It's a debate as old as the made-for-TV: Do we praise films for raising serious issues or dismiss them for reducing real problems to a set of cinematic cliches? Mary-Louise Parker stars in "Miracle Run" (8 p.m., Lifetime) as Corrine Morgan, the beleaguered mother of two unruly and inarticulate boys. In the brutal logic of TV movies, she learns that her boys are autistic and gets dumped by her live-in boyfriend on the very same day. Even by Lifetime standards, this guy is a bum.
Autism is a serious and heartbreaking illness, and treating it is a long, slow and often tedious process. And since TV movies aren't really equipped to depict long, slow, tedious processes, we flash forward years into the future, when Morgan's silent boys have grown taller and possess an awkward self-confidence and an obsession for "Rocky III."
Parker does a good job as Morgan, a spunky mother who won't listen to boyfriends, snobby neighbors and school officials who expect her sons to fail. But since this is television, she's richly rewarded for her perseverance. Her boys blossom into a track star and a musical savant. Morgan walks around in low-cut outfits and attracts the attention of a hunky contractor (Aidan Quinn) who becomes a real dad to her sons. While "Miracle Run" is an uplifting film that was supposedly inspired by a true story, it's adorned with too many Hollywood elements to be believed.
- The Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins meet in the preseason Hall of Fame Game on "Monday Night Football" (7 p.m., ABC).
- "Broadway's Lost Treasures II" (7 p.m., PBS) offers performances from classic Tony Awards shows. Performers include Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur ("Mame"), the late Gregory Hines ("Jelly's Last Jam"), Robert Morse ("How to Succeed in Business") and Richard Kiley ("Man of La Mancha").
Tonight's other highlights
- Jason pursues Nicole on "North Shore" (7 p.m., Fox).
- Robert and Amy return from their honeymoon full of advice about love and relationships on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS.
- Somewhere along the way, I simply forgot to care about the latest installment of "For Love or Money" (8 p.m., NBC), which ends tonight with a two-hour finale.
- Two women see how the other half lives on "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Wife" (8 p.m., Fox).
- Helen Mirren returns for a fifth season of "Prime Suspect" (8 p.m., BBC America).
- Death haunts a pit crew on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14,V).
- Former President Bill Clinton appears on "The Daily Show" (10 p.m., Comedy Central).