Here’s how I like to envision it: after the success of LACE on ABC, the powers that be rushed out to make a sequel. Problem was, one of their leading ladies, Bess Armstrong, was unavailable. Worse, the continuing story suggested by author Shirley Conran failed to make everyone happy. In the book, Lili (played on TV by the very glamorous Phoebe Cates) is kidnapped. Most of the novel centers around getting her back. This didn’t bode well for the producers since they desperately wanted the spotlight on Cates again. So what they ended up doing is make the kidnapping victim Judy Hale, Lili’s mom. That way, most of the miniseries would once again highlight the L’Hirondelle school for girls in flashbacks; while, in the present, focusing on Lili’s ultimate quest in finding her real dad to pay for the high ransom. Sort of like the hidden years of Lucinda Lace (Judy’s fictional heroine) crossed with a Nancy Drew-ish investigation. Juicy, right? Well, not exactly.
The main problem is Bess Armstrong’s replacement, the late Deborah Raffin. Her take on the Judy character is all wrong. Judy is serious, opinionated, a bit rude at times. In this one everything she does and says spells a different person. If it’s not her laid back attitude, it’s the way she makes silly jokes, as if Judy had a sense of humor in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I like Raffin as the next guy, but she’s totally miscast here. And what about the whole silly plot of dragging her kidnapped ass to the jungle? We get it, she’s been tricked into thinking she’s getting her biggest scoop yet. But the whole I hate you I love you shtick with her suave captor has been done to death, and frankly, we’re ready to move on. So who’s to blame, here? The screenwriter—Elliott Baker—mostly, who did come up with the silly plot. But I suspect he had no choice but to follow orders. How else can you explain all this drivel?
Another thing that bugs me is that Lili’s accent is MIA. I know, her foreign dialect is hardly credible in the original LACE but at least it makes sense that her character should have one (remember, she was raised by the Dassins in Château-d’Oex, then became a prisoner of war in Hungary before escaping to Paris). In this sequel, however, only the American accent survives. Which is fine in itself, but shouldn’t she at least add a little European flavor to it, like oui, non or Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques...? Anything to prove that she is who she claims she is. Because as it stands, I have my doubts.
I know. You don’t have to tell me. I obsess over this way too much. But I had such high hopes for LACE II. I wanted it to be as wonderful as the original. Heck, I even wanted it to become a weekly series. And maybe it would have been had it reached the success of its predecessor. But it only did okay in the ratings. I should have known it was not meant to be the moment Lili’s face appeared on a Times Square billboard without the notorious theme score to back it up. Oh, the Deniece Williams song did grow on me over the years but, alas, just like this sequel, it never reached the level of amazement. Still, I do check out LACE II every once in a while. For, despite its many faults, I still enjoy it to a certain degree (especially the scene involving Lili and the astronaut on a balcony which to me captures the real essence of LACE). And watching the continuing misadventures of Lili is better than nothing at all. But as someone very wise once said: what the f—. My thoughts exactly regarding LACE II.
Until next post—Martin