When the Bough Breaks (1986 film)

When the Bough Breaks
Genre Action
Based on When the Bough Breaks
by Jonathan Kellerman
Written by Phil Penningroth
Directed by Waris Hussein
Starring Ted Danson
Richard Masur
Rachel Ticotin
Music by Paul Chihara
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Ted Danson
Dan Fauci
Producer(s) Rick Husky
Kenneth R. Koch (co-producer)
Cinematography James Crabe
Editor(s) Michael Jablow
Running time 100 min.
Production company(s) TDF Productions
Taft Entertainment Television
Distributor NBC
Original network NBC
Original release
  • October 12, 1986 (1986-10-12) (U.S.)

When the Bough Breaks is a 1986 television film directed by Waris Hussein and starring Ted Danson. The screenplay by Phil Penningroth was adapted from a 1985 novel by Jonathan Kellerman, also titled When the Bough Breaks. Danson, who also co-produced, plays the crime-solving forensic psychologist Alex Delaware, a character who appears in a series of novels by Kellerman.


Alex Delaware, a Los Angeles psychiatrist, testifies for the prosecution in the trial of an accused child molester. Later the defendant, who is out on bail, is found dead in the psychiatrist's office, in what appears to be a suicide. Shaken, the psychiatrist moves to the mountains outside of L.A. Not long afterwards a detective he knows, Milo Sturgis, comes to him for help. A seven-year-old girl saw someone kill both of her parents, but is so traumatized by the event that she can't remember anything, and Sturgis wants the doctor to help: Alex agrees, and the two go on the trail of the real perpetrators.


A 1986 New York Times review said that, after a "properly taut start", "the solution to the mystery becomes apparent early on and that leaves the movie...tumbling rapidly into ever more unbelievable situations".[1] Jeff Jarvis of People magazine called When the Bough Breaks "a nice, tight, tense little murder mystery" with "some neatly shocking scenes".[2]


  1. O'Connor, John J. (October 10, 1986). "TV Weekend; 2 Films, 'Bough Breaks' and 'Circle of Violence'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  2. Jarvis, Jeff (October 13, 1986). "Picks and Pans Review: When the Bough Breaks". People. Retrieved April 9, 2012.

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