In 'Palomino,' Steel is beating a dead horse

Television

October 21, 1991|By Michael HILL

So Danielle Steel moseys on down to the ranch tonight where one of her purty little heroines can do what all of her women on one level or another set out do -- find herself a man.

And, in this case, not just any man, but an American icon -- a cowboy. Usually, Steel's lasses go for the wealthy-but-sensitive types, the ones who, as she dutifully lists, drive BMWs in the 700 series and wear Rolexes and drink Dom Perignon, but peer out of touching blue eyes.

But this guy has wealth of another type. He's taciturn but kind, with big hands, broad shoulders and few words, just the type to sweep a Steel woman off her expensively shod feet.

And Samantha Taylor, the heroine of "Palomino," which will be on Channel 2 (WMAR) tonight at 9 o'clock, is a typical heroine of what is becoming an endless series of movies based on Steel books that NBC is using against sports programming. Samantha is successful but wounded, tough but vulnerable, and, despite her dedication to her career, in the end only the right man can protect her and heal those hurts.

Samantha, played by the very attractive Lindsay Frost, is a successful photographer leading the sophisticated Manhattan life when her handsome, even more successful husband walks in and says he's walking out. Turns out he's a star anchorman and has fallen for his co-anchor. (By the way, this actually happened in Los Angles with Jim Lampley and Bree Walker, leading to two divorces, but certainly the resemblance is purely coincidental.)

Samantha runs away from her sorrows, taking on an assignment photograph the American cowboy as he exists on a posh ranch run by an old friend of hers, Caroline Lord, played by Eva Marie Saint.

There Samantha renews her acquaintance with riding horses and begins her acquaintance with Tate Jordan, that handsome hunk of cowpoking man played by Lee Horsley. You will probably be shocked to learn that Samantha and Tate don't like each other on first meeting, but, since she's got a hank of hair that reminds him of a palomino horse, it doesn't take too long to get out of the saddles and between the sheets.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it turns out that the widow Caroline has been carrying on in secret for a couple of decades with her foreman, William King, played by Rod Taylor. Tate earnestly explains to Samantha that King refuses to marry his true love because it just wouldn't look right, her marrying beneath her class like that.

All this bucking-bronco stuff between these pampered ladies and these rough-hewn men plays a bit like a low-rent, PG-rated "Lady Chatterley's Lover." But that was written about the strict British class system. This is America! Land of opportunity! Where, Jay and the Americans once sang, "a fancy girl like you can fall for a poor boy like me!"

Maybe in Steel's well-kempt, upper-crust San Francisco milieu, crossing these class lines is still a big issue and she has written "Palomino" asa strident cry to ridding America of its caste system.

Or, then again, maybe she just needed an excuse for a plot to crank out yet another of her unstructured romantic wanderings. Even her ranch setting isn't a real ranch. It's a rich woman's playground that Caroline bought with the money of her late husband, a successful Hollywood type. Look on it as Beverly Hills with horses and you'll see that Steel hasn't gone far from her familiar haunts.

As if this romance-across-class-lines plot weren't enough -- it probably was wrung dry around Page 200 -- Steel brings in yet another set of travails for her heroine to endure. Now we wouldn't want to burst one bubble of this overflowing pile of suds, so we won't reveal this devastating plot line, but let's just say that it has to do with the type of riding accident that's been the staple of made-for-pre-teen-girls horse stories for generations and a big-eyed little boy in a wheelchair.

And, if you're going to be shocked and surprised to learn that true love is able to surmount all the barriers erected by social and physical differences, then you don't know much about Danielle Steel stories.

Consider yourself lucky.

"Palomino"

* Based on a Danielle Steel book about a woman who retreats from her divorce to a ranch in California where she finds a cowboy to her liking.

CAST: Lindsay Frost, Lee Horsely

TIME: Tonight at 9 p.m.

-! CHANNEL: NBC Channel 2 (WMAR)

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