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Archive for Saturday, May 8, 2004

Meet one mother’s unusual blended family

May 8, 2004

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Celebrate Mother's Day with a very unorthodox mom. The documentary "My Flesh and Blood" (5:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO) spends a year with Susan Tom of Fairfield, Calif., the adoptive mother of 11 special-needs children. A gut wrenching and remarkably intimate film, "Flesh" allows many of Tom's kids to emerge as complex characters. Joe, 15, suffers from cystic fibrosis, a lung condition that keeps him in the hospital for weeks at a time. A handsome surfer type, he's also deeply disturbed and frequently lashes out at his blended family. But his real anger stems from his separation from his biological mother, a recovering methamphetamine addict, and his nine scattered biological siblings. "It gets complicated," says Tom with characteristic understatement.

Tom's other charges include Anthony, 19, whose skin disorder causes his flesh to peel from his body and requires Tom to bathe him for hours each day. He is in constant pain and will certainly die before long. Xenia, 13, is outgoing, athletic, boy-crazy and popular despite being born without legs. Faith, 8, lost most of her skin when her crib caught fire. Severely disfigured, she stands out as one of the smartest children in her class and projects a resilient optimism.

A survivor of childhood epilepsy, Margaret, 18, serves as Tom's assistant. She knows that compared to the rest of the family she has little to complain about. But at the same time, she feels trapped and overwhelmed by the unending avalanche of chores. It's difficult to watch this film and not wonder whether Tom is a saint or a troubled, lonely "collector" of problem children. And do her motivations really matter if she provides her kids with the only loving home they'll ever know?

Tonight's other highlights

  • On back-to-back helpings of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (ABC): SUV damage (7 p.m.), a Manhattan makeover (8 p.m.).
  • Snoop Dogg is host of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Avril Lavigne.

Sunday's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): how Saudi intelligence tortured and coerced British nationals into confessing to bombings actually carried out by Muslim extremists; a controversial prison writing program; an Air Force hero.
  • A dysfunctional mob family on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A horror writer is dispatched vampire-style on "Crossing Jordan" (9 p.m., NBC).

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