Robert Urich returns as Spenser with his thinking-man’s girlfriend Susan (Barbara Williams) for the second time this season on Lifetime. “Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes” pits the duo against a seemingly quiet New England town with a dark secret. The basic plotting works, as does the teaming of Urich and Williams, but story and telepic gets awfully slow awfully fast.
Turning series into vidpix is risky, as this outing reminds, because what works at one hour doesn’t necessarily work at twice that length. Director/lenser Vic Sarin certainly doesn’t fail, and in fact comes very close to pulling off the trick.
The telepic opens with Spenser discovering a former patient of psychiatrist Williams has died after being shot and castrated. The victim, a nosy reporter by day and town Casanova by night, appears to have messed with the wrong woman.
But the two snoops hit the town and begin to raise a stink with everybody from the police chief to the local druglord (the quaint town is actually a clearing house for cocaine).
A few more bodies turn up and Spenser and Susan circle their suspects in a rather confused but successful manner. It seems as though everyone knows something.
Middle of the script, by Robert B. Parker and Joan H. Parker, seems like filler, while the ending dangles at the end of a stick for what seems like forever.
Avery Brooks pops up a few times as Spenser’s old pal Hawk, and the New England town secret-keepers Natalia Jasen and Patrick Patterson give needed support at the right times.
Urich and Williams work well together, and Toronto and its outlying areas substitute nicely for Boston and New England.
Strong camerawork by Sarin and tight editing by Ron Wisman keep the show from really hitting the doldrums, but two hours is a long way for this episode to run.
More “Spenser” vidpix are planned for kinder-and-gentler cable channel Lifetime. It is hoped future segs can be kinder and gentler by making the show tighter.