Jumping on the reality/sensation bandwagon, “Secret Lives of Husbands & Wives” purports to look at individuals’ long-held secrets. It does so through sometimes voyeuristic, sometimes moving interviews with the people involved, juxtaposed with often embarrassingly inept enactments of how the secrets were perpetuated.
Special uncovers two secrets in the hour show. First is well-publicized case of an outstanding California doctor whose fatal heart attack in his early 50s brought to light trigamy: He had three wives.
While the original, and legally recognized, wife refused to participate, the second and third wives contributed extensive interviews to the show. At times making the viewer privy to questions and behavior more appropriate in a psychiatrist’s office, segs succeed in revealing apparently honest, caring women who have done considerable soul-searching to understand the bizarre situation of which they were a part.
Reenactments of their experiences by actors contrast terribly with the interviews, showing the women as foolish and often sappy; stiff, bland interpretation of the doctor gave no clue to his fascination or desirability.
Second story’s secret is a ’50s mother keeping from her daughter that she had sent the pregnant girl’s teenage boyfriend away, leaving the daughter to assume he’d never tried to help.
Value of the story is the endurance of caring between the two young people and the wonder of their reunion with each other and with the son given up for adoption 25 years before.
Both parents and the son are delightful interviewees. The psychiatrist’s-office feeling is gone; these are ordinary people telling their story. And while reenactments here are still a bit hokey, they are fresh, infinitely better acted, better directed and more believable.
Show has potential in this climate of tabloids if it can upgrade the quality of its reenactments. Sympathetic sense of impartiality shown by host Robin Young works, but writers Robert Bielak and Jean O’Neill could draw a sharper line against the rude, the clinical and the insensitive in the questions they provide her to ask.
Production could be slicker, less soapy, in reenactment portions of show.