Danielle Steel, whose formula romances sell in the tens of millions, furnishes fodder for NBC’s first vidpic of the new season with yet another novel awash in gloss, style and Lee Holdridge’s strings-swollen score. The heroine’s pretty, her wealthy husband’s older and ailing, and she’s pursued by a persistent suitor; where’s the upstairs maid who could resist?
Raphaella (Stacy Haiduk), young and of good family, is happily married to San Francisco tycoon John (Darren McGavin), who adores her. When he suffers a stroke , she sticks by him till the manipulated plot shoots her off to New York for a business meeting.
Divorced lawyer Alan (Robert Urich), story prop who’s admired her from afar and coincidentally is on his way to Gotham himself, parks next to her on the plane and, when turbulence hits, manfully comforts her.
Alan is a cipher, with no friends (as his ex-wife Kay, played by Susan Sullivan, observes), no responsibilities and not much to recommend him. Anyone with sense might suspect a fortune hunter.
Alan is the son of well-off novelist Charlotte (Marion Ross) and father of teenager Amanda (Holly Marie Combs); otherwise, he’s a writer’s tool.
Adultery and deception slip comfortably into Jan Worthington’s undemanding script, with Alan pitching the low moral road as Raphaella faintly protests. It’s bigger than both of them, but not big enough to be believed. To add to the unprincipled ethics of the piece, a convenient suicide is used to free everyone.
Intimate scenes between the principals, carried away on violin music, play mechanically under the direction of experienced Steel helmer Michael L. Miller, while those segs with outsiders — Ross, Sullivan and Combs, who all cut through the slush — are handled crisply, with Miller finding surprising vitality.
Pretty Haiduk, vet of “seaQuest DSV,” plays the heroine with a shot of dignity. Urich, literally fleshing out the romantic, shallow Alan, captures the character’s boyish ardor. Dependable McGavin does a valiant job of making the likable hubby credible.
NBC, plump with eight Steel vidpix and three miniseries under its belt and a ninth telefilm, “Family Album,” slated for October, has options on up to six more of the writer’s projects. Steel, a bottomless well of commercial, fictional amours, and her adaptors not only know the territory, they mapped it.
Mike Fash’s polished camerawork catches Charles Dunlop’s rich and compelling design, and Gordon McClellan’s editing sets a commendable pace. Production, like the others, looks like a million and will be watched by far more than that.