Roseanne and Elvis, together at last! ABC’s kitschy, maudlin hound dog of a telepic, “The Woman Who Loved Elvis,” is a white-trash double whammy that the fans — his and hers — will doubtless lap up.
Exec produced by joined-at-the-hip Roseanne and Tom Arnold (with Jack Grossbart and Joan Barnett), “Woman” is set and shot in the heart of Arnold country (Ottumwa, Iowa).
It’s supposed to be about a woman named Joyce, immortalized in Laura Kalpakian’s novel “Graced Land” as a single mother whose home and life have become a shrine to the memory of the The King. But it ends up feeling like another dysfunctional evening with the Arnolds.
Joyce (Roseanne Arnold) is a welfare mother famous for abusing the system and making a healthy undeclared income on the side. Her new caseworker Emily (Cynthia Gibb) is a naive cutie who befriends Joyce and turns a blind eye to her shenanigans. Joyce’s estranged husband Jack (Tom Arnold) rides in and out of her life on his motorcycle.
He still cares about her and their daughters Priscilla (Danielle Harris, from “Roseanne”) and Lisa Marie (Kimberly Dal Santo), but has taken up with the town floozie.
Obviously, the woman who loved Elvis has problems. “When dad moved out, Elvis moved in!” screams one of her resentful kids. But the concept is that even if everyone thinks she’s the town kook, she’s really its savior, a big hunka burnin’ love who’s better than all of ’em put together.
Unfortunately, although as an actress Roseanne Arnold has many qualities, lovable is not of them. (Sally Kirkland, who plays Joyce’s best friend Sandee, might have been able to pull off the role.)
Rita Mae Brown’s script isgooey and dumb. Director Bill Bixby does what he can with the dopey material. Strangely, the music is underplayed: a few Elvis songs in the background and a lot of “Roseanne”-style bluesy guitar riffs in William Olvis’ score.
Tom Arnold, oafishly likable, is the only one who comes out of this thing alive. They should have made it “The Man Who Loved the Woman Who Loved Elvis.” But then who would have watched?