Six hours of muddled morals is all 'Lucky/Chances' offers

October 05, 1990|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

If NBC executives really believe women are going to tune out baseball in huge numbers to watch "Jackie Collins' Lucky/Chances," they have a pretty low opinion of women.

"Lucky/Chances," which airs Sunday at 9 on WMAR-TV (Channel 2) and continues Monday and Tuesday, is NBC's attempt to counterprogram the baseball playoffs on CBS. There is nothing very special about the six-hour miniseries. It is essentially a prime-time soap opera, like "Knots Landing."

But "Lucky/Chances" is not quite as carefully crafted as most episodes of "Knots Landing." For example, in a series of early scenes, which are supposed to be set in the 1930s, virtually all the women are wearing 1980s hairdos. There are problems considerably larger than that, though, with this tedious six hours of sex and muddled moral messages.

The miniseries is a combination of Collins' novels, "Lucky" and "Chances." Collins wrote the screenplay and served as executive producer. It stars Nicollette Sheridan (from "Knots Landing") as Lucky Santangelo and Vincent Irizarry (from "Santa Barbara") as Gino Santangelo, Lucky's father.

It is supposed to be a saga of a poor immigrant boy (Gino Santangelo) who rises through pluck and luck from the streets of New York to the penthouse promised land of Las Vegas where he builds and owns the first and biggest hotel on the strip.

Miniseries that repeat such variations on the Horatio Alger story lineserve a useful function. They help reinvigorate the dream that fuels the immigrant experience, which helps this country keep growing, as it incorporates wave after of wave of newcomers into American life.

But Collins fills this screenplay with all her crackpot morals. Gino is good because he only sells bootleg alcohol during Prohibition, not drugs. His "hard work" involves sleeping with a rich woman to get the money to start the family business.

Collins' "feminism" is even more muddled. Lucky gives speeches on equal opportunity, which we are supposed to believe in, while she moves from one traditional relationship to another.

There are revelations here. By the start of the sixth hour, it becomes hard to imagine a more limited actress than Sheridan. She has three or four moves -- lick the lips, push out the lips in a Mick Jagger pout, peal back the lips in a feral smile, toss the hair back over the shoulder. She has run through the full range after about 15 minutes on screen. To watch the rest of her self-absorbed performance gives new meaning to the words predictable and arid.

A predictable and arid performance for a predictable, arid and exploitative story. At least Jackie Collins, the executive producer, got the casting right.

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