With an epidemic of real-life murder-for-hire plots across the country, it’s a wonder husbands and wives can sleep at night. Though it feels like a daytime drama, “Kiss and Tell” might keep a few more spouses awake.
Cheryl Ladd stars as Jean McAvoy, the victim of a conspiracy hatched by her husband (John Terry) and his mistress. The opening sequence is foreshadowing: As she lies on a raft in her pool, spouse Eric playfully splashes her with water and she flails, trying to escape. Though he ultimately has more than horseplay in mind, he hopes to push her off the deep end en route to an early end. Administered a gradual overdose of sedatives, she’s well on her way; a history of suicide in her wealthy family makes mental instability highly plausible.
Enter Kelly Krieger, a young woman (nicely rendered by Francie Swift) claiming to be Eric’s mistress. She warns Jean that Eric, the former high school quarterback from the wrong side of the tracks, is planning to kill her. As the other woman’s predictions about his plan start coming true, Jean begins to fray when no one believes she’s being targeted. The only question is whether the mistress is in on it.
Motivated by greed and by bitterness over how he was treated by her snobbish clan, Eric has Jean committed to a mental hospital for a short stay. She inexplicably agrees to sign over financial assets, and her sleuthing leads her into his final trap.
Spotty telepic improves marginally thanks to Terry, who relishes the character’s dry sense of humor and perversity. Many scenes come off unrehearsed, and there’s the occasional all-out clinker — for instance, when Jean unintentionally sets off her car alarm while spying on Eric in his love nest.
Ladd squints a lot and puts her hand over her mouth to signal surprise. Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure”) is appropriately menacing as a loquacious thug with a thick Southern accent.
Writer David Birke tries to find an edge by raising class issues and pitting ladies who lunch against working-class types — the kind who hire hit men. Production is satisfactory.