This review was corrected on Feb. 12, 2001.
Asendup of everything Hollywood, from catfighting actresses to over-the-top demands, ABC’s “These Old Broads” is simple, nasty fun. Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins are the ultimate good sports here, playing downtrodden divas who bicker nonstop about nips, tucks and failed marriages. Nostalgic viewers tired of sweeps schedules packed with overblown minis and true crime tell-alls will surely appreciate this uncomplicated telepic full of class acts and sass.
Written by Carrie Fisher (Reynolds’ daughter) and Elaine Pope, project sounds like a cross between “The First Wives Club” and “The Sunshine Boys.” There are plenty of zings and zippy one-liners, and the stars’ ability to make fun of just about everything they’ve gone through in real life is a hoot (Reynolds and Taylor’s husband-stealing conversation will make Eddie Fisher very proud).
Thanks to the savvy dealmaking of their loopy, bed-bound agent Beryl Mason (Taylor), three has-beens reunite for a live televised special after the one 1960s film they made together becomes a hit in re-release. Kate Westburn (MacLaine) is now reduced to roadshows of “Mame” and is into reincarnation and meditation (sound familiar?); Piper Grayson (Reynolds) is a Las Vegas hotel owner (sound familiar?) and Addie Holden (Collins) is a spiteful nymph who longs for the days when she was the hottest body in town.
The women are corralled by Gavin (Nestor Carbonell), a sleazy TV exec who needs a big hit to save his job. Looking for any way to get the gals together, he hires Wesley (Jonathan Silverman), Kate’s documentarian son who ends up directing the show after the original helmer is fired.
Nothing goes right during rehearsals. Past affairs are brought up, jealousy over billing emerges and physical impossibilities — it’s hard to do the splits when you’re a grandmother — prevent them from doing what they were hired to do. Their feuds reopen old wounds, while everyone with something at stake claims that the show must go on.
Everything that happens in “Broads,” of course, is a set up for something, well, broad: All four thesps are game for anything, so there’s no shortage of wig-pulling knockdowns or bitchy standoffs.
A lot doesn’t work — whether Wesley is gay is a needless subplot and a mobster’s corpse is unnecessarily dragged in — but everyone seems to be having a ball, and helmer Matthew Diamond uses a light touch that hides the big script flaws (events come and go without much significance).
But certainly notable is the decision to use twisted humor. Sensing that younger auds would probably tire of legends chatting it up about screentime and makeup, Fisher and Pope have built the conversations around more sexual references than a night on the WB. And while watching a couple of senior citizens talk about their “conquests” and their partners’ sex organs might be peculiar, if not off-putting, here it becomes a surreal twist; which one of these ladies is better in bed is just plain hilarious.
Tech credits are average, and a better use of L.A. locations would have served a project about the biz more effectively.