You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story

Gorgeous Sherilyn Fenn looks and sounds like Taylor. Softness and vulnerability are her strong suits, volatility and depth -- necessary to sustain a staid (no sex, few emotional intimacies) four-hour rendering -- are less apparent.

Gorgeous Sherilyn Fenn looks and sounds like Taylor. Softness and vulnerability are her strong suits, volatility and depth — necessary to sustain a staid (no sex, few emotional intimacies) four-hour rendering — are less apparent.

Writer Burr Douglas assumes familiarity with the major events in the star’s life but refrains from offering any commentary except to spin things in Taylor’s favor. It’s a sympathetic portrait of a woman searching for love. Loyalty and motherly instincts are highlighted. This Liz is hedonistic, occasionally witty and often selfish, but never truly bitchy. Her biggest faults are not taking responsibility and avoiding confrontation.

Director Kevin Connor hasn’t done much to shape the material, so it’s flat and all on one level. With the exception of her relationship with Mike Todd (Ray Wise), nothing sticks.

Mother (Christine Healy) pushes Liz into pictures with Hedda Hopper’s (Katherine Helmond in a nice turn) help. Not that she’s unwilling. A brilliant audition with a mop wins her her first role in a “Lassie” pic. Falling off a horse while filming “National Velvet” results in a lifelong addiction to painkillers.

Jump to the 17-year-old meeting and instantly falling in love with Montgomery Clift (William McNamara) on the set of “A Place in the Sun.”

Rebounding from Monty — who’s gay but becomes her best friend — she marries Nicky Hilton (Eric Gustavson), depicted as a total goon. Jealous of her stardom, he punches Liz in the belly on their honeymoon. She exits the marriage pronto.

Nigel Havers brings some class and an authentic English accent as husband Michael Wilding, the older actor who has two children with Liz and is eventually eclipsed. They stick with it long enough to host the party that precedes Monty’s disfiguring car wreck.

Wise gives an overblown perf as hubby No. 3, producer Todd. They’re genuinely and boisterously in love; it’s not a dress rehearsal for Burton. The 413-day marriage ends tragically when he dies in a plane crash. It’s the most affecting part of the mini.

Liz recovers quickly enough though, marrying her friend Debbie Reynolds’ husband, singer Eddie Fisher (Corey Parker), who’s in way over his head. The slant given this enormous scandal favors Liz. Debbie makes sure Hedda puts all the blame on Liz in her column.

On a lark she asks for $ 1 million against 10% of the gross from the first dollar for “Cleopatra”– and gets it. Told she’ll play opposite Richard Burton (Angus MacFadyen), Liz asks, “Who?” and night one ends with she and Burton prepping for “Cleopatra.”

Arguably, the success of the project rests on this relationship, which unfortunately doesn’t ring true. MacFadyen looks uncannily like Burton but delivers a caricature, reducing the thesp to just a Welsh windbag and drunk. There’s little chemistry between the two and the rows are phony.

Their divorce, remarriage and divorce are covered only in newspaper headlines.

Marriage to Virginia’s Sen. John Warner (Charles Frank) is a fiasco and Liz aggressively turns to pills, booze and food. We get a brief glimpse of a swollen Taylor holed up in her rural Virginia bedroom; the obesity makeup looks like an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Burton refers to Liz as a “deep, vast, terrifying ocean,” but this Taylor is shallow. The part and performance improve as she ages, but she’s simply not a force. Fenn’s finest moment might be mopping the kitchen floor at the Betty Ford Clinic in purple pumps.

The last 10 years are rushed through, with Taylor’s work for AIDS charities duly noted. The appeal of Larry Fortensky (Michael McGrady) seems to be eating in greasy spoons and a sense of normalcy. Cheesy ending has Taylor, Fortensky and assorted family members around the pool in Bel-Air in 1992. Teleplay amounts to a whirlwind economy tour and has lots of dead ends.

Production values improve in part two when crew isn’t stretching for period flavor. Clumsy indications of time and place are used in addition to screen titles, including countless directors’ chairs bearing the names of pictures and aerial shots of studio buildings. File footage is used erratically and to no great effect.

“Liz” ends with Fortensky uttering the cliche, “There’s only one Elizabeth Taylor.” She should hope this won’t be the only dramatization of her life. That would be cheating posterity.

Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story

(Sun., Mon. (21, 22), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Lester Persky Prods. Executive producer, Lester Persky; producer, Hugh Benson; co-producer, Daniel Schneider; supervising producer, Tomlinson Dean; director, Kevin Connor; writer, Burr Douglas; based on the biography by C. David Heymann; camera, Doug Milsome; editors, Barry Peters, Corky Ehlers; production designer, James J. Agazzi; art director, Sandy Geztler; sound, Walter Hoylman; music, Ken Thorne. #Cast: Sherilyn Fenn, Nigel Havers, Katherine Helmond, Angus MacFadyen, Kevin McCarthy, William McNamara, Corey Parker, Ray Wise, Christine Healy, Dan McVicar, Eric Gustavson, John Saxon, Charles Frank, Michael McGrady, Judith Jones, John Fink, Michael Cavanaugh, Casey Ahern, Heather Lauren Olson, John Menick, Eugene Roche, Anthony Powers, Marne Patterson, Terry Rhoads, David Cromwell, Patrick Robert Smith, Victor Raider-Wexler, Julian Stone, Patricia North, Daniel Markel, Laura Carlson, Francesca Hilton, Anna Mathias, Alan Shearman, Rick Fitts, Robert MacKenzie. If Elizabeth Taylor sues the makers of this mini, which is based on the unauthorized bio by C. David Heymann, she should do so on the grounds they've made her life seem boring. Two-parter lacks many things, salaciousness and defamation being at the top of the list. Judging by the choppy editing and gaps, exec producer Lester Persky let the NBC legal department have its way too often. Moving rapidly over six decades and seven husbands, this is a tame version of Taylor's personal life.

More TV

  • Netflix's Clarence Avant Doc 'Black Godfather'

    Barack Obama, P. Diddy, David Geffen Hail 'Black Godfather' Clarence Avant in Netflix Doc (Watch)

    The first trailer for “The Black Godfather,” Reginald Hudlin’s documentary about black entertainment trailblazer Clarence Avant, has been released. The film features interviews with Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, David Geffen, Clive Davis, Diane Warren, Lionel Richie and Irving Azoff, among other industry titans. Former president Barack Obama also makes an appearance. Hudlin spent three years [...]

  • BBC Studios Names Anna Cronin Digital

    BBC Studios Names Anna Cronin Digital Content Director (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anna Cronin has been upped to director of digital content at BBC Studios, a new role at the production and distribution arm of the U.K. pubcaster. The position is within BBC Studios’ content partnerships division, which oversees the company’s programming and IP partnerships. Cronin will work with U.K. and international partners, and notably those in [...]

  • HBO Europe,The Mediapro Studio Lacoproductora Team

    HBO Europe, The Mediapro Studio, Lacoproductora Team On Comedy Series 'Whatever'

    MADRID — HBO Europe is adding to its growing Spanish slate with “Por H o por B,” a comedy series original produced by Globomedia, part of TV giant The Mediapro Studio and new Madrid-based company Lacoproductora. Written and directed by Manuela Burló Moreno, the 10-episode half-hour takes the characters from her Goya-nominated short film “Pipas,” [...]

  • Zombie Comedy ‘Zomboat!’ Sets Sail for

    Zombie Comedy ‘Zomboat!’ Sets Sail for ITV and Hulu

    The zombie apocalypse is coming to the U.K. and will be seen on British and U.S. TV after ITV and Hulu greenlit “Zomboat!” The upcoming comedy will star Leah Brotherhead (“White Gold”), Hamza Jeetooa (“Doctor Who”), Ryan McKen (“White Dragon”), and Cara Theobold (“Downton Abbey”). It will bow on the ITV2 channel this fall and [...]

  • Busy Philipps

    ACLU, Busy Philipps Take on Abortion Bans With #YouKnowMe Ad Campaign

    In the wake of revealing to “Busy Tonight” viewers that she had had an abortion — and creating the #YouKnowMe hashtag on social media — Busy Philipps is teaming up with the ACLU on a “You Know Me” ad campaign meant to rebut recent legislation in several states that restrict access to abortion. “You know [...]


    TV Review: ABC's Live 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'

    In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before reboot and revival fever manifested as verbatim repeats — but if TV’s gonna go there, bringing back eerily timely shows like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” is the way to do it. That Norman Lear’s comedies are timely, or at least prescient, is [...]

  • WGA Agents Packaging Fight Placeholder

    Judge in Writers Guild Suit Against Agencies Replaced Again

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine W. Mandel has replaced Craig D. Karlan to handle the Writers Guild of America’s lawsuit against Hollywood’s four major talent agencies. Mandel was appointed Wednesday. She is the third judge assigned to the case, which was filed April 17 by the WGA against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content