×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Secret Affair

There is a moment in the bathos-rich "Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Secret Affair" that serves to define the ironic times in which we live. The scene features pampered princess Vanessa Stewart (played by Janine Turner) and dashing, pushy TV reporter Bill Fitzgerald (Irish actor Paudge Behan). The two lovers are about to hop into bed for the first time -- and we do mean hop. Shot through a soft filter, locked on super slo-mo, undergarments are strewn tantalizingly amid the mating frenzy. Bill is finally caught flying more or less stark naked in midair as he leaps playfully onto the guffawing Vanessa.

With:
Vanessa Stewart - Janine Turner Bill Fitzgerald - Paudge Behan Drucilla Fitzgerald - Fionnula Flanagan Stephen Rocken - Robert Mailhouse Mimi - Gia Carides Charles Stewart - Michael J. Reynolds Patricia Stewart - Jana Sheldon Helena Fitzgerald - Sarah Bolger With: Alessandro Bressanello, Maura Plenzio, Eugene O'Brien, Mark Ivanir, Frank O'Sullivan, Alan Stanford.

There is a moment in the bathos-rich “Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Secret Affair” that serves to define the ironic times in which we live. The scene features pampered princess Vanessa Stewart (played by Janine Turner) and dashing, pushy TV reporter Bill Fitzgerald (Irish actor Paudge Behan).

The two lovers are about to hop into bed for the first time — and we do mean hop. Shot through a soft filter, locked on super slo-mo, undergarments are strewn tantalizingly amid the mating frenzy. Bill is finally caught flying more or less stark naked in midair as he leaps playfully onto the guffawing Vanessa.

This clothing-optional interlude will more than likely attract no protests or attention whatsoever. Yet on the very same network (CBS) earlier this month, critical reaction was swift and severe when a character on “Chicago Hope” uttered the commonplace phrase “shit happens.” Interesting, huh? And unlike “Hope,” “A Secret Affair” doesn’t even carry the mitigating factor of being quality-driven. It is melodramatic schmaltz to the core, complete with such seductive lines as, “I’d love to see a glass factory. I’ve always been interested in blowing glass.”

Isn’t that also what Monica Lewinsky said to…oh, never mind.

Based, naturally, on the 1996 novel of the same name by Barbara Taylor Bradford (and adapted for the small screen by Carole Real), “A Secret Affair” stars “Northern Exposure” alum Turner in a kind of “European Exposure” (it was shot on location in Venice and Dublin). The most challenging aspect of the role for Turner came in handling a wig sporting hair down to her backside — this, in the wake of her close-cropped look on the CBS series.

Unfortunately for Turner’s alter ego Vanessa, all of her good hair days are wasted on a tall, handsome, Ivy League-educated and deathly-dull fella named Stephen Rocken (Robert Mailhouse). He is the chief financial officer in Vanessa’s parents’ booming home-goods business. Vanessa is an exec in the Philadelphia firm, too, and is bored witless. She longs to roll her hands and other body parts over modeling clay, making busts and other artsy-fartsy artifacts.

Then on a business trip to Venice, Vanessa is minding her own beeswax, riding a boat on some shimmering Italian lake when she is hit on by Bill (Behan). We know Bill means business because he carries his coat over one shoulder in that “I’m a good catch” sorta way. The Irish TV personality, a widower who puts his butt in harm’s way routinely, makes such a charming nuisance of himself that Vanessa has to give in and sleep with him. It’s either that or have him arrested.

Pretty soon, the love sparks start to fire. Vanessa plots her escape from Boring Boy and her life of silver-spoon hell in Philly. Bill takes her to visit his mom (nice work from Fionnula Flanagan) and daughter (Sarah Bolger).

But then the usual fate intercedes: kidnap, torture, bad poker games.

It’s all over but the tears. There will be lots and lots of those clear through the conclusion of “A Secret Affair,” directed with an earnest hand by helmer Bobby Roth from Real’s divertingly sappy teleplay. Plenty of lush shots of that Dublin countryside, however. For Turner, it all proves to be particularly hair-raising. Tech credits are all sharp.

Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Secret Affair

CBS; Wed. Oct. 27, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Venice, Italy and Dublin, Ireland by Tracey Alexander Prods. in association with Adelson Entertainment. Executive producers, Andrew Adelson, Tracey Alexander, Robert Bradford; producers, James Flynn, Morgan O'Sullivan; director, Bobby Roth; writer, Carole Real; based on the novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Cast: Vanessa Stewart - Janine Turner Bill Fitzgerald - Paudge Behan Drucilla Fitzgerald - Fionnula Flanagan Stephen Rocken - Robert Mailhouse Mimi - Gia Carides Charles Stewart - Michael J. Reynolds Patricia Stewart - Jana Sheldon Helena Fitzgerald - Sarah Bolger With: Alessandro Bressanello, Maura Plenzio, Eugene O'Brien, Mark Ivanir, Frank O'Sullivan, Alan Stanford.Camera, Eric Van Haren Noman; production designer, Alan Farquharson; editor, Armen Minasian; music, Stephen McKeon; sound, Jim Corcoran; casting, Molly Lopata, Nuala Moiselle, Frank Moiselle. 2 HOURS.

More TV

  • Greg Berlanti

    Greg Berlanti on Why Movies Are Lagging Behind TV in LGBTQ Representation

    Greg Berlanti is television’s most prolific producer. With a record-breaking 18 series from his production company greenlit for the 2019-2020 season, the openly gay Berlanti is using his power to ensure the LGBTQ community is reflected on the small screen — both in front of and behind the camera. From casting the first transgender superhero [...]

  • Legion

    How Production Designer Marco Niro Created a Visual Climax for FX's ‘Legion’

    FX’s “Legion” has always drawn inspiration not only from the Marvel “X-Men” comics on which it is based, but also from the weirder corners of pop culture. When creator Noah Hawley cast “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens as the lead — David Haller, a mutant whose telepathic powers have been misdiagnosed as mental illness — [...]

  • DEAR WHITE PEOPLE

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Dear White People' Season 3 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV roundup, “Dear White People” sets an August 2 premiere and Showtime acquires the six-episode comedy series “Back to Life.” DATES “Dear White People” will return for its third season on August 2. The news was announced in a comedic sketch posted to Netflix‘s Youtube channel, in which the series’ cast members debate [...]

  • Adam Lambert Queen

    Adam Lambert on What's Changed for Gay Artists Since His 'American Idol' Run

    Ten years ago, Adam Lambert burst onto the music scene in a blaze of guy-liner, hairspray and sexual ambiguity as America’s most unlikely “Idol.” But while he had the rock star look down and a soaring voice that seduced the hard-to-impress Simon Cowell, Lambert lost. Or did he? While many blamed homophobia for his runner-up [...]

  • Loudest Voice Roger Ailes Miniseries

    Will Showtime's Roger Ailes Miniseries 'The Loudest Voice' Spark More Tell-Alls?

    Roger Ailes in 1996 supervised the launch of a multibillion-dollar business few people thought would ever get off the ground. In 2019 he may have a posthumous hand in instigating something equally complex: a ripped-from-the-headlines drama about the media industry, complete with portrayals of people who still help make it run. If that foray is successful, plenty of [...]

  • elin-hilderbrand-hulu

    Hulu to Develop Series Based on Elin Hilderbrand Novels

    Several of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are being adapted into a Hulu drama series, Variety has learned. The potential series, which is in early development at the streamer, is based on Hilderbrand’s summer romances set in Nantucket, specifically “The Identicals,” “The Blue Bistro,” and “The Matchmaker.” Andre and Maria Jacquemetton will write and executive produce, with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content