When the Atkins family patriarch dies, the town of Lake Success is inundated with more gold diggers than a Dean Martin roast. Resultant fast-paced soaper may be — however inadvertently — the funniest series on primetime TV, with florid acting and script on a campy level that makes “Dallas” look like “King Lear.” Pity it’s only scheduled for three two-hour installments, concluding Oct. 15.
P. Stewart Atkins III (Brian Keith) is the founder and CEO of Decker-Atkins Pharmaceuticals. His son and daughter — especially daughter Decker Atkins (Rebeccah Bush) feel they’ve been groomed to take over the family business. Pair’s reaction isn’t exactly positive when their step-siblings Suzy (Liz Vassey) and Stew (Ryan Phillipe) show up from back East. The two have been estranged from Pop for fifteen years, having left at about the time their mother , former chorine Harriet “Honey” Potts Atkins, absconded with several million dollars of the old man’s money.
Meanwhile, back at the Atkins estate, Ridgehaven, another set of characters is up to typical soapy illicit affairs and schemes. Long-
time family retainer Diana Westley (Samantha Eggar) keeps house and protects what she can of Atkins Sr.’s legacy.
Plot turns on deaths of one minor character in a suspicious accident and Pop Atkins — who secretly willed the $ 2 billion Decker-Atkins Pharmaceuticals to 21-year-old Suzy. In the second installment, Honey (Valerie Perrine) shows up.
Cliche-ridden script has its moments. Decker’s character is quickly limned when she orders tailor to raise the hemline on her Donna Karan dress: “Bring it up a little higher,” she snaps. “I’m mourning my father, not my kneecaps.”
Acting, by cast largely recruited from daytime drama, is up to the script, with only a few — Keith and Vassey, Eggar and Chapman among them — rising above the material to create vaguely realistic-sounding characters.
Show looks very good, with main sets consisting of Atkins manse and local burger joint where Jenny works as a waitress. Revisiting the place, Honey muses, “I sure hope they still use Velveeta on their bacon cheeseburgers.” She’s come up with a metaphor for the entire series.