×

The Pastor’s Wife

From the pre-opening credit moment when authorities roll out a shrouded body as concerned neighbors look on, it's clear "The Pastor's Wife" is a Lifetime movie like momma used to make 'em: Fact-based, trashy and featuring an imperiled young woman.

With:
Mary Winkler - Rose McGowan
Mathew Winkler - Michael Shanks
Steve Farese - Martin Cummins
Hannah Winkler - Julia Sarah Stone
Emily Winkler - Lilah Fitzgerald

From the pre-opening credit moment when authorities roll out a shrouded body as concerned neighbors look on, it’s clear “The Pastor’s Wife” is a Lifetime movie like momma used to make ’em: Fact-based, trashy and featuring an imperiled young woman. Still, this is an eminently watchable take on the old formula, anchored by Rose McGowan, whose pained expressions each time someone calls her handsome husband a treasure pretty much speak volumes. Mostly, it’s a reminder of what amounts to TV movie law: Slap your wife around in the Deep South, and someone’s gonna wind up on “Nancy Grace.”

Promoted from a berth on Lifetime’s movie channel to the flagship network, the pic stars McGowan as Mary Winkler, the mother of three who shook up her Tennessee town in 2006 by shooting husband Matthew (Michael Shanks), the popular local pastor, in their bedroom.

Only through flashback do we learn about the abuse he allegedly heaped upon her, making the movie as constructed less about whodunnit than why. But with no witnesses and little evidence to validate her story, can she actually make a self-defense plea fly?

If the subject matter is as old as “The Burning Bed,” writer Robert L. Freedman and director Norma Bailey have managed to present Winkler’s tale of woe with a degree of style, including direct-to-camera testimony from other townsfolk that provides a sense of documentary-style authenticity. And while McGowan has a diverse resume, she’s perfectly convincing as the Southern wife who can solemnly drawl of her late husband, “I could never do anything right in his eyes.”

Among the drawbacks is the lack of memorable supporting performances, even within the inevitable courtroom scenes, which feature Martin Cummins as Mary’s lawyer. (Video of the aforementioned Grace is included, by the way, with video of the HLN host pithily referring to Winkler’s case the “Tennessee minister murder mystery.”)

While broadcast networks once went overboard dramatizing such cases, the pendulum has swung far enough in the other direction that devoting a TV movie to this true-crime yarn — as opposed to an episode of “48 Hours,” “Dateline” or a reality show with cheesy reenactments — actually feels like a small luxury, or at least a greasy junk-food meal as opposed to the usual snack.

Besides, the ratings ought to be boffo. What better way could there be for a predominantly female audience to vicariously escape on Saturday night than watching a woman kill her husband?

Popular on Variety

The Pastor's Wife

Movie; Lifetime, Sat. Nov. 5, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Vancouver by Preacher Road Prods. and Front Street Pictures. Executive producers, Gerald W. Abrams, Harvey Kahn, Michael Moran, Juliet Smith; director, Norma Bailey; writer, Robert L. Freedman, based on the book by Diane Fanning.

Crew: Camera, C. Kim Miles; production designer, Monika Choynowski; editor, Lara Mazur; music, Schaun Tozer. 120 MIN.

Cast: Mary Winkler - Rose McGowan
Mathew Winkler - Michael Shanks
Steve Farese - Martin Cummins
Hannah Winkler - Julia Sarah Stone
Emily Winkler - Lilah Fitzgerald

More TV

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content