Stream on iTunes
March 16, 1977 (CBS)
Tom King (story), Ernest Kinoy (screenplay)
For Gerry Miller (Michael Moriarty), ice hockey is his life. When Miller gets
relegated to the minor league there is only one way for him to get back into the big time. He must fight. His comeback is
swift - and bloody. Soon he is the hero of the crowd, the man they pay to see, the one they call "The Penalty Killer".
Then disaster strikes and Miller finds himself fighting for survival in a very different arena. 'The Deadliest Season'
involves us in the big business politics behind the fastest and most physical game in the world. In her television debut,
Meryl Streep plays Gary Miller's supportive wife, Sharon.
Cast & Characters
Michael Moriarty (Garry Miller), Kevin Conway (George Graff ), Meryl Streep (Sharon Miller), Sully Boyar (Tom
Feeney), Mason Adams (Bill Cavins), Walter McGinn (District Attorney Horace Meade), Jill Eikenberry (Carole Eskanazi)
Success was the name of his game. Then one day he went too far... and it wasn't a game anymore. Michael Moriarty stars as
a popular defenseman whose take-no-prisoners approach to the game results in the serious - and ultimately fatal - injury
of another player. He remais outwardly blase about the whole affair, chalking it off to the fortunes of hockey. But an
equally ruthless DA charges Moriarty with aggravated assault with a "deadly weapon". In "The Deadliest Season", Meryl
Streep makes her television debut as Moriarty's conscience-ridden wif. Moriarty and Streep have first worked together in
the 1971 stage production of "The Playboy of Seville". And Herbert Brodkin, producer of "The Deadliest Season", was so
impressed with bother their performances that he cast them together again in his controversial miniseries "Holcoaust", which
earned them both Primetime Emmy Awards.
Moriarty remembers Meryl as being "especially nervous on the set. She'd bite her fingers and twirl her hair. I liked her, though. Anybody who was putting that kind of effort into a TV movie
was a serious player. And she was just getting her feet wet". Her part was small. Meryl played Sharon, the loving spouse
of Moriarty, a professional hockey player who is pressured into provoking brutal fights on the ice to increase the excitement
of the game. Like "The Deer Hunter", its target audience was men. But this was still television, where subtlety is more
feared than sex. Meryl had to utter lines that thudded harder than a fall on the ice. Still, she made them work. "When I
watched you in a game it turned me on," she tells Moriarty. Her delivery is quiet and slow, as if she is searching for better
words to tell her husband that she loves him. When she can't come up with them, the effect is poignant. When "The Deadliest Season" first aired over NBC in March 1977, John J. O'Connor of The New York Times extended lavish praise on this dramatic
indictment of the savagary in hockey. "At a time when television is being seriously and widely questioning about its own
violent content, "The Deadliest Season" is an especially noteworthy presentation for a major network," he wrote. "Beyond
that, this is an exceptionally impressive production".
Simply Streep's Review
The story of "The Deadliest Season" feels as current as it has probably always been. A proffesional hockey player tries
to climb up the ladder and uses unfair methods against the other players for the sake of his career, something that can
be projected on every job these days. The story is told straight, and Michael Moriarty plays the central character just at
that. At times you wish his portrayal was a bit more symphatetic so you could care more, but for most of the time, he's
the last to realise the mistakes he did. Meryl's performance as his wife feels unnecessary throughout. As with most films
in the sports genre, the "wife" role is there to show that the leading man has a normal private life, but she doesn't have
much to do beyond that. Her dialogue is odd at times, and I'm sure this is a part Meryl wouldn't have accepted at another
time in her career. Still, it's no failure. She works around the dialogue and has a nice dramatic scene at the end of the
film. Also, this appearance has lead to her leading role in "Holocaust", which became her breakthrough on film, so "The Deadliest
Season", if not an interesting gig for Meryl, has at least lead to bigger things. The film is recommended to everyone
interested in icehockey or adecent courtroom drama.