You know the old saying: some things are much better left in the past. Well, that’s exactly my thoughts regarding HOLLYWOOD WIVES the miniseries, the tale of a psychopath searching for his long-lost mama among Tinseltown’s most powerful players. Although it has a super cast (Stefanie Powers, Angie Dickinson, Rod Steiger, Roddy McDowell…) and super production values I cannot express enough how disappointed I am to have re-visited it. I would have preferred keeping it lovely in my mind. Indeed, the first time I ever caught it, I was about 20, fresh from watching the spectacular LACE on ABC the year prior. It was the mid-‘80s and nighttime soaps ruled the networks. Every channel dealt with the problems of the rich. It was about the same time that I got a hold of HOLLYWOOD WIVES, the novel. It was my first Jackie Collins read, and suffice to say, not my last. From then on, getting everything else she had written became my top priority.
So imagine the thrill I felt knowing that a miniseries based on the novel was coming to ABC. It took a few months, but when the three-parter finally aired during February sweeps in 1985, I was glued to the set. I remember digging the overall presentation, thinking it was relatively faithful to the novel despite the many snips here and there. I also remember that it won its timeslot, making it a top-rated TV program. After that, I heard that its sequel HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS was in the works; then nothing; nothing until LUCKY/CHANCES made its way to NBC in 1990.
It took 30 years for HOLLYWOOD WIVES to finally hit the DVD market in North America but when it did I immediately got myself a copy, of course. The five hour event (without commercials) is on two discs. Though a technical anomalies warning is issued before viewing, I can attest that the overall image quality is quite decent. The sound quality, however, is another matter. The dialogue may be crisp and clear, but the background music on the other hand is almost ear-splitting, forcing the viewer to lower the volume repeatedly. Irksome perhaps but tolerable enough (at least it was to me) when compared to the joy of finally seeing this miniseries all over again.
Well, that’s what I thought at first, but it soon became apparent that I had been misled by my youth and exuberance. The whole thing ended up being sillier and more unrealistic than I could ever have imagined. I know it’s Jackie Collins we’re talking here, but many a time did I find myself uttering those irritating comments you despise when coming from others: yeah right, that’s impossible, or my favorite: Oh bitch please! Take the character of sexpot Gina Germaine, played by fresh from her THREE’S COMPANY dismissal Suzanne Sommers. Gina wants a part desperately. So she bangs director Neil Grey (Anthony Hopkins) for it. While he takes a shower she reaches inside his garment bag and produces the secretive script. Now, how would she know it’s there in the first place? Is she psychic or something? There is no mention of him telling her or us where he hides it. But more importantly, why would he put it there? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to keep it under lock and key, like in an attaché case perhaps? I could go on and on (don’t get me started on Candice Bergen’s shoplifting scenes) but this is just one of many implausible situations that are there just for the sake of keeping the plot going.
I can already hear some of you advising me to take it all with a grain of salt, and I would if HOLLYWOOD WIVES the miniseries had not been such a downer after all. Maybe it just proves something: that my love for anything glam-related does have a certain limit, that whatever I’m watching or reading or re-watching or re-reading needs to be brought up to a certain level of consistency for me to enjoy it completely. Otherwise it’s a no-no.
Until next post—Martin