Having moved to Winchester, New Hampton 3 years early to run a weekly newspaper Dennis 'Doc' Littky (Michael Tucker) had always been treated sceptically by the locals who only saw him as the quirky little man with a beard who jogged through the town and lived in a log cabin. But after seeing the desperate state that the town's High School was in, with police called in by a Principal who had given up he decided to take a stand and having been a Principal before turning to journalism puts himself forward for the job. Not everyone is keen on the idea of the bearded little man taking over the school especially as he has some progressive ideas on how to make the students want to learn but he gets the job. Whilst he wins over some support there are those including Sheila Bennet (Carole Galloway) who aggressively object to his methods and rallies support in order to oust Doc from his position.
Are you a fan of movies about inspirational teachers, those who take on a class of unruly students and through persistence and patience succeed in turning around the lives of their students? If the answer is yes then "A Town Torn Apart" will be for you as a big part of this made for TV movie from the 90s is watching how Doc makes a difference in the lives of several students from a young boy with anger problems to a teen with a desire to learn struggling with small town attitudes when she falls pregnant. Yes that does mean there is a side to "A Town Torn Apart" which will be feel familiar, from Doc's enthusiasm being infectious, to teachers beginning to believe in his ideas through to the campaign of some parents to oust him because they feared the progressive system of teaching he puts in place. Of course this is all based on a true story so it isn't just some old inspirational teacher cliches being recycled but it does have that familiarity.
But "A Town Torn Apart" is more than just another inspirational teacher movie as it is a dramatization of what Dennis 'Doc' Littky went through in that first year of being principal of Thayer High School. As I mentioned he came up against opposition from some parents who behind the scenes organised things to try and oust him from his position. But we also see what Doc and those who supported him did to try and battle this with the encouragement of the students who saw first hand what a difference he was making to their lives. Nope this doesn't have the greatest amount of depth but it is an effective dramatization which adds another layer to what would otherwise be purely a familiar inspirational teacher movie.
Now "A Town Torn Apart" features the husband and wife team of Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry with Tucker looking a lot like Richard Dreyfuss to the point I was shocked when I didn't see Dreyfuss's name in the credits. Both deliver solid performances with Tucker taking on the energetic role of Doc whilst Eikenberry delivers a sympathetic performance as Ellen Kreiger a supportive teacher who is initially sceptical of Doc's progressive ideas. But it is the young actors who play the students with Lindsey Connell, Leah Salomaa, Noam Zylberman and Patrick Gillen all delivering believable and entertaining performances.
What this all boils down to is that "A Town Torn Apart" is for the most another familiar made for TV movie with a drama about an inspirational teacher based on a true story. But it works and with it being based on a true story also has the extra element of the problems that Dennis 'Doc' Littky faced.