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E! Network's first movie, 'Best Actress,' is one of the worst

Friday, March 17, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

"Best Actress," E! Entertainment Television's first made-for-TV movie, should be trashy fun. Instead, it's just trashy.

Based on the 1998 novel by John Kane, "Best Actress" (9 p.m. Sunday) is the story of five Academy Award nominees with various dysfunctions.

Aging diva Connie Travers (Loretta Devine) is desperate for a comeback; Lori Seefer (Elisa Donovan) hides her homosexuality; Karen Kroll (Jamie Pressly) struggles to go mainstream after getting her start as a porn star; and Amber Lyons (Jordan Ladd) is queen of the indies but is also a drug addict. Lastly, cold fish Fiona Covington (Rachel Hunter) gets dumped by her British actor-director hubby, Colin (Anthony Stewart Head), for another Best Actress nominee.

It's easy to play who's who with "Best Actress," recognizing characters clearly based on real-life celebs, but that guessing game lasts all of 10 minutes. Then there's the rest of the film to sit through.

Tabloid journalist Ted Gavin (Thomas Calabro, who must be desperate for work after "Melrose Place") narrates the story, which leads up to the inevitable Oscar ceremony. There are twists and turns, but "Best Actress" is so unengaging you'll be left shrugging "Who cares?" long before the anti-climactic conclusion.

It's a general rule viewers should not be vomited upon by TV, but with so much dreck assaulting viewers, that happens anyway. Usually, it's metaphorical, but with "Best Actress" it's literal: A character barfs into the camera. Nice.

Ted says hell is "like a TV movie with narration." Watching "Best Actress," it's easy to see why.

"Best Actress" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on E!

"Farscape"

(8 tonight on Sci-Fi)

After an amazing crescendo in the last four episodes of its first season, "Farscape" chugs back to the tube tonight with its second season premiere. But the momentum created in January's arc all but evaporates.

It's not that "Farscape" has become bad TV, it's just disappointing given how much the show improved over the course of its first season. Tonight's second season premiere starts out confusing -- how'd they get there? Where'd that big ship come from and where did it go? -- but ends sweetly.

John Crichton (Ben Browder) and company try to wrest control of Talyn, the child of their spaceship, Moya, from arch-enemy-turned-reluctant ally Capt. Crais (Lani Tupu) while evading capture by S&M devotee Scorpius (Wayne Pygram).

When it's not confusing, it's an exciting "Farscape" hour and sets the stage for further adventures. Next week's episode drops the ball. Rather than continuing the story, even in the slightest, viewers get an overwrought, stand-alone episode that lacks the surprises of the best "Farscape" adventures.

Surely the arc will reappear, but it's worrisome the serialized story got dropped so early in the season.

Television network executives are notoriously nervous nellies about continuing stories (they don't do as well in repeats; they require viewers to pay closer attention), so it always gives me pause when a show that's hit its stride using an arc abandons that approach. Let's hope Sci-Fi Network execs aren't sabotaging their best hope for a hit show.

"Ballykissangel"

(9 tonight on BBC America)

Death claims another character on the fifth season premiere of the British drama "Ballykissangel." Not that it matters much. After the demise of Assumpta Fitzgerald (Dervla Kirwan) and the departure of Father Clifford (Stephen Tompkinson) at the end of the third season, this comedy-drama never reconnected with its initial lighthearted tone.

The latest passing comes as Niamh (Tina Kellegher) prepares to leave husband Ambrose (Peter Hanly) for old friend Sean Dillon (Lorcan Cranitch).

There are some nice moments of dramatic grieving in the season's second episode (10 p.m. Wednesday), but with the recent news that actor Tony Doyle (Brian Quigley on "Ballyk") died, there's really no reason for this show to go on.

Save a few of the original cast members, "Ballyk" looks and feels quite different than it did in the beginning. While it's interesting to see a show grow and mutate as actors come and go, sometimes a series meanders so far from its origins it needs to end. For "Ballykissangel," that time has come.



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