A mostly stellar cast classes up the otherwise shabby Showtime anthology “A Girl Thing” from writer/director/producer Lee Rose (“An Unexpected Family,” “The Truth About Jane”). A compilation of four female-driven tales, the mini is unified by Stockard Channing, who plays a psychiatrist listening to her varied clients’ stories. Some familiar faces give decidedly appealing turns, but the material here is weary indeed, relying on empty, indulgent psycho-speak and inchoate storytelling. It’s a dull thing.
The first up in this medley of therapy sessions is Elle Macpherson, who plays Lauren, a beautiful (natch!), successful lawyer with an intimacy problem. On a disastrous blind double date, Lauren meets and feels surprisingly connected to the other female member of the foursome, the bold ad exec Casey (a strong Kate Capshaw). Struggling with unfamiliar sexual attraction to a woman and with an intolerant best friend at work, Lauren, with the assistance of Channing’s Dr. Noonan, must decide whether she’s adventurous enough to give the relationship a real chance. With the lesbian love scenes and Macpherson’s cheerless acting style, the piece has the feel of a Zalman King short without the depth.
The next piece gets off to a strong beginning, but soon becomes interminable as well. Dr. Noonan’s client this time is Helen (Glenne Headley), an angry woman whose controlling but wealthy mother has just passed away. In order to collect her inheritance, Helen is forced to move in with her two sisters, Kim (Rebecca De Mornay) and Kathy (Allison Janney), the latter of which has always been oil to Helen’s vinegar. With the mother’s lawyer keeping watch through inhouse cameras, and with the longtime housekeeper Alice (Irma P. Hall) playing referee, Helen and Kathy must learn to get along as, supposedly, sisters should, and they’re helped by a surprising revelation. Headley and Janney are fun to watch here, but somehow seeing a scripted piece about people forced to live together in a house to collect money seems redundant these days. It’s as entertaining as “Big Brother” would be if there were a complete absence of spontaneity.
The second evening starts with the most incomprehensible of the stories. A fed-up wife (Lynn Whitfield) decides to seek revenge on her philandering husband (Scott Bakula). She manages to convince his older mistress Betty (Mia Farrow), and the professional “decoy” Rachel (Linda Hamilton) to help in this highly unclear, dramatically unsatisfying endeavor. Supposedly, this lack of satisfaction is the moral of the story. It’s like “First Wives Club” without the fun, or the clarity.
“A Girl Thing” wraps up by turning the tables on Dr. Noonan, who must confront her own issues when she’s held hostage by an imbalanced new client (Camryn Manheim) with a serious trust problem. Dr. Noonan’s assistant, played with insouciance by S. Epatha Merkerson, a terrified client named Alex (Peta Wilson), and the coffee shop owner who serves as the doctor’s own sounding board (Margo Martindale) also play roles in the most dramatic, but still bland, story. Manheim acts a psycho with aplomb (maybe she can guest star with herself on “The Practice”), but Rose’s unshaped writing has worn the audience down at this point. She seems to take the philosophy that one should never use 10 words when one can use a thousand, and this makes the whole four hours seems like a pretty undisciplined, flabby exercise.
Terence Blanchard provides some pleasing music. Tech credits are adequate.