The Father Prevention Program
There are a lot of TV movies which are just so so, trading on familiar storylines which are overly sweet and there is nothing wrong with that as they serve a purpose but occasionally you come across one which stands out as being different. "The Whereabouts of Jenny" is one such movie because whilst not a true story movie uses a real idea, that of a divorced father who suddenly finds himself unable to see his daughter when his wife and child are put in the witness protection program. There is plenty of real drama in "The Whereabouts of Jenny" but also a nicely worked fictional drama about what the father will do both legally and illegally to be able to see his daughter.
Whilst his marriage ended when his wife had an affair, Jimmy (Ed O'Neill - K-9) is okay as he has his bar and friends plus he sees his daughter for weekends. But that all changes when he discovers his wife's boyfriend is not only dealing drugs but is under FBI supervision. When things blow up all of a sudden his wife and daughter go missing Jimmy hires Liz (Debrah Farentino) a private detective and learns they have been put in the Witness Protection Program and he is not only not allowed to see them but not even know where they are. After trying to take on the FBI in the courts only to be stone walled he is forced to play by their rules but he can't settle and wont stop till he gets his daughter back.
There are two sides to "The Whereabouts of Jenny" the reality of a divorced father suddenly finding he can't see his child due to the witness protection program and the fictionalized drama surrounding Jimmy trying to get his daughter back. The two interweave nicely to create this touching but entertaining drama which also combines a bit of romance in to the equation. What is nice is that it opens your eyes to how difficult it must be for those who find themselves in this situation in real life, suddenly finding what little access they have taken from them with little hope when coming up against the FBI to get their rights back.
But built on this sense of reality is a thoroughly good drama which sees Jimmy dogged determination to see his daughter again. As I mentioned there is a touch of romance which thankfully doesn't overwhelm the story but there is also a despicable lawyer who sells out as well as the FBI who are portrayed as cruel and uncaring even vindictive. There is also just the right amount of humour when Jimmy gets a supervised visit and takes his daughter and the FBI officer on a rollercoaster ride till the FBI Officer can't bare it anymore. Yes some of it does come across as far fetched but it keeps it entertaining especially when it comes to the lengths which Jimmy will go to see his daughter.
A big reason for this is the wonderful casting of Ed O'Neill as Jimmy as not only does he come across as a believable father who finds himself at the bum end of a raw deal but also a father who loves his daughter and will do anything to see her again. O'Neill is aided by a brilliant supporting cast be it Debrah Farentino as the beautiful private investigator he hires to Mike Farrell as the district attorney who gives him a hard time and wants to crush Jimmy for challenging him. There are a lot more good performances especially Lee Garlington who is both amusing and warm as Gina the bar-woman.
What this all boils down to is that "The Whereabouts of Jenny" is a much better TV movie than you might expect which not only does a good job of highlighting a real situation but then building an entertaining drama around it.