Giffords' `Model' not worth following

Review: Neither Kathie Lee nor Cody does anything to help this ABC TV movie.

March 11, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

I am not going to do it.

I am not going to cut up Kathie Lee Gifford for her performance -- if you want to call it that -- in Disney's "Model Behavior" tomorrow night on ABC. I do not shoot foul-smelling dead fish frozen stiff in a barrel.

After seeing her Christmas specials and witnessing her career as a talk show host, why would anyone think she could act?

And I am absolutely not going to comment on the cameo performance of her 9-year-old son, Cody, in the film. After 20 years of reviewing television, there's a lot of dried blood on the old pen. But I've never stooped to shredding a 9-year-old kid just because he has no discernible talent.

But how can you ignore her lunacy? She quits her talk show with Regis Philbin saying she's doing it in large part to protect her children from ravages of a vicious media that would savage them only to get at mom, and then she forces this kid into a network movie.

And I do mean forced. When you see Cody try to act, it will end any credibility you might have leant to any of her suggestions that the producers wanted Cody, that the kid wanted to do it and that she was mostly an innocent bystander to this runaway train fueled by Cody's incredible talent.

Pushing your child into the jaws of the beast is not exactly the way to protect him, unless I'm missing something here.

Kathie Lee, of course, says I am. She says by having Cody working with her in the film, she could keep an eye on him -- that's the other reason she did it.

A warning: If you're ever being prepped for surgery and a 9-year-old leans over to administer the anesthetic, you'll know your surgeon is using the Kathie Lee Gifford Guide to Combining Parenting and a Professional Career.

And it is all so nuts, because actually "Model Behavior" is a fairly harmless little Disney film about teen fantasy and transformation that is only diminished by the Gifford presence.

Maggie Lawson ("Party of Five") does the Patty Duke drill of playing two characters who look alike and wind up switching lives for a week only to find out the grass is always greener blah, blah, blah. One of the characters, Janine, is a famous teen model. The other, Alex, is a self-described geek. The geek thing is a bit of a stretch for a girl who looks this much like a model, but never mind.

Lawson gives it some credibility, and, in the end, Alex gets to dance at her high school's fall ball with a character played by Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync. So, what's not to like?

How about every moment Gifford is onscreen as Janine's overbearing stage mom? Notice how in every confrontation between the mother and daughter, the director shoots Lawson's face instead of Gifford's.

That's because one of them is a real actress actually capable of showing some emotion.

Weekend TV

What: "Model Behavior"

When: Tomorrow night 7 to 9

Where: WMAR (Channel 2)

In brief: As if Kathie Lee alone wasn't enough

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