Nbc Movie of the Week Danielle Steel’s Once in a Lifetime

Star Lindsay Wagner and co-star Amy Aquino rise above this torpid, rather than torrid, Danielle Steel adaptation. Neither as glitzy as "Crossings" nor as trashy as "Star," this piece of Olympics counter-programming will likely attract only the most ardent sports-haters.

Star Lindsay Wagner and co-star Amy Aquino rise above this torpid, rather than torrid, Danielle Steel adaptation. Neither as glitzy as “Crossings” nor as trashy as “Star,” this piece of Olympics counter-programming will likely attract only the most ardent sports-haters.

Successful novelist Daphne Fields (Wagner) is hit by a car Christmas Eve, and as she lays in a coma, her story is told in flashback. Seems she was once an aspiring writer/happy Connecticut housewife whose life was shattered by the deaths of her husband (Rex Smith) and daughter in a fire.

Daphne moves to New York City, where she awaits the birth of the child conceived the night of the fire. She is befriended by Barbara (Aquino), who becomes like a second mother to Daphne’s deaf child, Andrew (Darrell Thomas Utley), and Daphne herself.

In between writing best-selling novels and learning sign language, Daphne leads a nun-like existence. Her determination to raise Andrew herself finally gives way to sending him to a school for the deaf, run by earnest nice guy Dr. Matthew Dane (Barry Bostwick).

It looks like something is developing between Daphne and the good doctor when she is called away to work on the screenplay for one of her books. Forsaking Matt, she has an on-location affair with the smarmy star Justin Wakefield (Duncan Regehr), who then dumps her. Shortly after, she has her accident, and awakens to Matt’s loving voice, and of course, they live happily ever after.

Biggest problem is the plot. It’s predictable and just not gripping. Michael Miller’s direction is fine, and Wagner and Aquino are both excellent — especially Aquino, in the thankless role of spinster best friend — but all of their efforts can’t compensate for the plot.

The only real fun is when the action moves to the cheesy movie adaptation of Daphne’s “Apache” (the PC crowd will have fits when it sees the way Native Americans are portrayed), but it comes too late to rescue people from watching the ice-fishing finals or some other snowy nonsense.

One final gripe: Given that Steel hands out happy endings as easily as Elvis’ physician did prescriptions, couldn’t she have given one to Aquino’s character? Have a heart, Danielle, it is Valentine’s time, after all.

Nbc Movie of the Week Danielle Steel's Once in a Lifetime

(Tues. (15), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Cramer Co. in association with NBC Prods. Exec producer, Douglas S. Cramer; co-producer, Daniel Dugan; director, Michael Miller; writer, Syrie Astrahan James.

Crew: Camera, Kees Van Oostrum; editor, Janet Bartels Vandagriff; production designer, James J. Agazzi; sound, Michael Moore; music, David Shire.

Cast: With: Lindsay Wagner, Barry Bostwick, Duncan Regehr, Amy Aquino, Rex Smith, Fran Bennett, Debra Sullivan, Michael Mitz, Michael Laskin, Jessica Sinegal, Nicholas Petrie, Dawn Jeffrey-Nelson, Spencer Garbett, Marck Davenport, Orlee Kenner, Clara Bryant, Helaine Lembeck.

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