Tom Murray’s documentary debuts on Showtime Tuesday night

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Back in Dec., 1998, we did a piece on Tom Murray, the KCAL Channel 9 sports anchor who, at the time, was one you could count on not to leave the company in order to join “Entertainment Tonight” (like Mark Steines), be featured on a potato-peeling infomercial (Joe Fowler) or be a weekend-fill-in at another channel (Gary Cruz).

Not that he looked down on what others before him had done, but Murray had personal and professional standards to maintain.

A former editor of The Hockey News and most recently doing sideline reporting for Fox Sports Net as well as blogging on the Kings for ESPNLosAngeles.com, Murray has stepped up with a documentary that debuts tonight on Showtime to tell the story of a family he knows pretty well.

It’s his own.

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Credited as the writer, director and producer, Murray recounts his brother Christopher’s life with autism in “Dad’s In Heaven With Nixon” (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., with many replays). It airs as part of Autism Awareness Month.

Murray tells the story, with many home movies, first about how his great-grandfather, Thomas E. Murray, an inventor, and his grandfather, John F. Murray, were cursed with depression and bipolar disorder. Tom Murray’s brother Chris was born severely oxygen deprived and who was encouraged by doctors to be institutionalized, was diagnosed with autism.

Tom and Chris share their stories of thriving through their father and grandfather’s dysfunction and can now even laugh and marvel at emerging whole in spite of it all. The documentary offers proof that the sins of the fathers don’t have to be visited upon the sons after all.

A review in today’s New York Times by Neil Genzlinger (linked here)

Documentaries about people with autism have been turning up regularly as that condition has received more publicity. But “Dad’s In Heaven With Nixon” (8:30 p.m., Showtime) has layers some of the others don’t, thanks to a box of old home movies.

For years Tom Murray had toyed with the idea of making a film about his brother Christopher, who suffered oxygen deprivation when he was born in 1960 and was later found to be autistic. But a simple story about Christopher and how devoted his mother, Janice, was to him became something else when Tom Murray began scrutinizing the home movies shot by his grandfather in the 1920s and ’30s.

“I started going through them microscopically, frame by frame,” Mr. Murray said in a telephone interview, “and I began to piece together the story that I wanted to tell, which was not only Christopher’s story but my father’s story and how it affected all of us.”

In those old movies were images from the childhood of his father, who, the family now realizes, probably had bipolar disorder, a condition that ultimately unraveled the family’s idyllic life on Long Island. Christopher, however, has shown his resilience through it all: he lives independently in New Haven and has even found a measure of fame as a painter, his work in demand among art collectors.

== More on the film:
= The official website (linked here)
= On Facebook (linked here)
= A review on Bloomberg.com (linked here)

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  • Shully

    I was moved by your story.

    your Mother’s role was understated, and she, very humble.. but i think she was the strength that carried your family over the years.. God bless her..

    Hope your sisters are doing well too.. they seemed to be angry still. Your other brother, seemed removed..

    I was one of 6 with two handicapped brothers,both have since passed. It is always so amazing how the rest of us faired with different perspectives from our upbringing.. the same as you decribed in you film.

    Maria Shull