To Be The Best (1992)

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“Don’t go far, there’s a third coming soon.”

I wrote that on August 12, 2012, having finished our discussion of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “Hold The Dream.”  Before that, we had Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “A Woman of Substance.”  Now we have Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “To Be the Best.”  Is it?  Compared to what?

Don’t answer that, not until the end.

But all three movies of this trilogy are pretty mind-numbing.  The first two benefitted from having Deborah Kerr, Liam Neeson, John Mills and others.  They also suffered by having young Deborah Kerr played terribly by Miranda Richardson in “A Woman of Substance” and then played terribly times two by Jenny Seagrove in “Hold The Dream.”

For the conclusion of this three-novel saga (the Emma Harte series kept on going and we’ll get there eventually…maybe), we’re getting a lot more hip and exciting, theoretically, and Lindsay Wagner is as good a TV cheesefest performer as any, so we’re starting on a positive note.

Any bets on how long that will last?  Look at the DVD cover, does it make you want to rush out and watch it?  I didn’t think so.

Lindsay is not exactly British, though her character has been since Barbara Taylor Bradford came up with her grandmother’s character, but perhaps because ten years have gone by since “Hold The Dream,” the worse-than-Madonna pronunciation she uses says, “I’ll do this for a few scenes, and then you’ll just have to accept the fact that I’m not British.”

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Certainly no one we have yet met in this story has ever looked like this cover of the novel (a re-print, obviously, because no one in Leeds has the need for those heels).

If only I could do a “previously, on Barbara Taylor Bradford’s…,” I might be able to help remind you of what has happened in the Emma Harte saga up until now, but I don’t, so you will have to go back and read them.

Or will you?

Yes. Basically, we have spent 12 hours watching a woman pull herself up by her bootstraps from her life as a servant to become a dazzlingly wealthy woman with hateful children and has thus left everything to her beloved granddaughter before dying.

But, Barbara Taylor Bradford herself pops by for 30 seconds in pearl earrings and matching pearl necklace, standing by the piano in some grande English manse, to tell us that “Lindsay Wagner is struggling to retain her business empire…and her marriage.  Anthony Hopkins is her only ally in the battle to stop her enemies from destroying everything she holds dear.  I hope you enjoy the show.”

Now that’s how you plug your own work.  Take a lesson, Judith Krantz.

Lindsay tell’s grandmama’s headstone up in Yorkshire, that she has big plans for the 70th Anniversary of the family department store before leaving a giant wad of cash in the church’s collection box.  She then dashes off in her Porsche before she can be thanked.  She’s not always so generous and calm.  When she hears an employee tell an enormous bison of a woman that a specific hat “gives you personality,” Lindsay, wearing three different hairstyles at once, reminds the sales assistant to just assist.

Lindsay has a mob of employees waiting for her when she arrives in her office, all of them speaking over the others, but now it seems Lindsay may have three times as many ears as the normal person (to match those all-at-once hairdos), because she answers each of them calmly, to choruses of “mumble, mumble, I would never have thought of that, mumble, mumble.”  She does appear a bit weaker when hubby David Robb calls from the South of France to needle her about missing visits.  “Your son is starting to forget what you look like and frankly, so am I,” he says with fey bitchiness.  “I’ll be on the 4:00 flight,” she says.

I want to stop for a moment to compliment Lindsay Wagner for what, about six minutes into the movie, is actually perhaps the single greatest advancement in the history of television up until then (and this is 1992), but one so unheralded I could not find reference to it anywhere.

She is able to talk on the phone AND wear and earring at the same time.  It’s shocking!  It’s thrilled!  It’s probably Bionic.

Over in Hong Kong, we find Christopher Cazenove and Claire Oberman as family members who resent Lindsay as pretty much everything was left to her.  And James Saito is there.  Nice of them to bring along an actor of Asian descent to play an Asian, though his first words are those of an apology for smoking.  The cousins are wondering why Lindsay picked Hong Kong as the new location for a store, since they are right across the street.  “Why not?” Claire asks innocently enough.  “Why not is not an answer to why,” Christopher reminds her.

Did you get that?

Christopher insists she’s doing it because “she wants to rub [my] nose in her grand celebration.”  He adds, “if I’m not going to be on the bandwagon, at least I can lead the band” and pretend all is well.  Steel yourself for the reply.

Steeled?

You sure?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

“Confucius could not have aid it any better,” James oozes, somehow not laughing.  Only a handsome actor could get away with that line!  Or a drunk one.

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James has a suggestion for pouty Christopher and when he tries to mention it, Christopher cuts him off with “when asked, always wait to be asked,” holds for two beats and exhales to, “okay, what’s the suggestion?”  So much for the plight of secondary ethnic characters in the American Miniseries.  Confucius, polite bowing and subservience, all in under 10 seconds.

His suggestions include a boxing match or an international symposium on arms reductions.  Or?  I was hoping for “and,” I really was.”  But, having folders of empty paper thrown at him does not hurt his soul, so when asked to do a little “arm twisting,” with investors,” he feels it necessary to remind Christopher, “I’m not a violent man.”  I assume that means he actually IS a violent man.  Christopher steals the fight analogy, warning that the upcoming showdown with Lindsay, “a heavyweight contest it will be…bare knuckles down to the finish,” “and this time no mistakes,” says Claire to finish that thought, having stopped sipping the champagne that everyone has just sitting around the office each morning.

Earlier, we met (though they need no reason for introduction), a staff of three people who monitor cameras in the department store so they can watch for bad guys.  Wouldn’t you know they are eating lunch and playing cards when a women looking exactly like Lindsay’s secretary and two men dressed up as maintenance workers find their way into the office.  None of them notice it until the three have raided the safe and shot the actual secretary, although she doesn’t die.  The employee from the hat department, who had some good ideas for Lindsay, wanders into the corridor at the wrong moment, not realizing she was going to be taking a hail of bullets instead of the secretary (who does not have so much as a cut, quite a trick since they both went flying through glass doors).

Lindsay gets the bad news during afterglow with her husband, who howls at her for answering the phone.  Even her “oh my God!” reply to what she’s being told does not melt his anger as he struggles to put on his watch.  “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Lindsay says.

“How in the hell did they get in there?” Lindsay asks security expert Anthony Hopkins, who has made perhaps the worst decision by a slumming vet to appear in a miniseries because he went…

From this:

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To this

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To this:

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Once of these is not like the others.

Anthony has to suffer through a big-time reaming about “our” responsibility for maintaining the safety and welfare of the staff from things like “fire…and murderers.”  Lindsay, whose all-in-one hairstyles seem to get extra colorization as the movie goes on, then realizes the store employee is dead because of her, just a freak coincidence, as that was the appointed time for their pow-pow, “and I wasn’t even here.”

She has a staff of six billion people and no one keeps her appointment books?  She didn’t duck out for a cup of coffee, she hopped over to Southern France for some nookie with her ungrateful husband.  For the poor employee, it was either an eternal wait in the waiting room for Lindsay to get back or a short trip to eternity.  Alas, it was the latter.

Lindsay goes to pay a shiva call on the dead woman’s family (okay, it’s unlikely this suburban British black family is Jewish, but there’s not much difference, except that this shindig is lacking cold cuts).  Anthony, apparently wearing his toupee backwards, tells the parents he accepts “full responsibility.”  That’s nice, and it gets Lindsay off the hook so that when reporters follow her demanding answers, she tells them it’s his responsibility.  A reporter asks if it might be better should a strong man run the company.  “The subject is not arm wrestling.  There seem to be a shortage of strong male hands around here these days,” she snaps back (this is our second mention of arms and brawls).  She leaves Anthony to be devoured as she dashes off with her husband, to whom she refers as strong, but whom we’ve already seen to be, well, probably pretty flaccid.

Back in Hong Kong, James has figured out a way to dangle “bait” in front of Lindsay and gets all smiley and malevolent explaining the plans to Cousin Christopher.  They involve a chain of department stores in the US heartland, a scumbag lawyer and company NYC big cheese (and family member) Fiona Fullerton, whose drunken husband Stuart Wilson is a soap opera actor with a violent temper.

Things don’t go quite so smoothly.  Lindsay is so shocked and overwhelmed, cousin Christopher Blake offers to go to Hong Kong in her stead.  Christopher Cazenove is thrilled, confusing poor James (who is the smart one).  “That little cousin has a big weakness, and we’re going to take full advantage of it,” Christopher cackles as he jumps from a rowing machine into an infinity pool.

James is not quite as devoted as he seems.  He ducks out and into the Hong Kong store where Stephanie Beacham works, handing her a wad of money and spouting some drivel enough for her to ask him why he always speaks like a fortune cookie.  “Because I’m a smart cookie and very fortunate,” he replies.

Let that sink in.  I’ll wait.

He tells her to buy a dress that will “dazzle” Christopher Cazenove.  Why?  Because Christopher has “a big weakness, and we’re going to take full advantage of it.”

The writing is so bad it makes fun of itself rather than thinking of of better material.

But, having the great Stephanie Beacham in the movie is a guaranteed plus.  By the time Sable Colby came along, the primetime soap bitch role had long lost its sweeter side (crying over dead husbands, loving children, that sort of thing) and Stephanie Beacham could be as campy as she wanted to be.  It’s a good thing she was still doing so long after “The Colbys” and “Dynasty” (last seen watching in horror as Alexis and Dex may or may not have fallen to their deaths since Sable wasn’t invited back for the send-off to know that Alexis turned mid-air and thus the ever-loyal Dex Dexter broke her fall so she could live to fight Blake another day…wait, why am I tell you all of this) went off the air.

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With Stephanie around to be a duplicitous vixen, we may have just found the best thing about “To Be the Best.”

We hope.

Meanwhile, Fiona is driving to that mysterious Midwest department store when she pops a tire on a dirt road in Indiana (how the hell off the beaten path can a department store be?).  We see her figuring out where the spare tire is on the car, but not doing anything about it.  She simply walks into a local hotel bar looking fresh for her meeting with Gary Cady.  She offers to buy him another drink, and he’s faux shocked by such treatment, declining.  “Well, exit high-powered New York executive.  Enter…woman,” she says with no apartment annoyance or excitement.  It wouldn’t be the worst line, it just needs a better actress.  In the course of the next 12 seconds, she delivers a few insults, adopts a Southern accent and says, “I’ve never changed a tire before!” as she wheels out of the bar (this is actually a motel, not a hotel, stairs and doors on the outside).

Around the world with the family we continue, now with Christopher Blake on a plane to Hong Kong, where he thinks about that time the doctor told him he had “more than three, less than six” months before being felled by Leukemia.  He is forbidden stress, alcohol and travel, all of which he’s doing just in this scene alone.  Now we understand why Lindsay was so worried about the length of the flight when he volunteered to represent her in Asia.  It would have been so much better to hear it in one sentence rather than hire another actor to play the doctor, look at x-rays, build a set, keep it in the final cut…

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We’ve all seen the Casino Macau Palace on film and usually it’s being blown up.  It’s still possible, once Claire Oberman slithers over and in two seconds picks a fight with Christopher Blake.  “Don’t think you’ve won, don’t think we’ve given up,” she snarls, but luckily isn’t stupid enough to say why (don’t laugh, many characters here would be stupid enough).  About 167 seedy characters, including James Saito, watch Christopher nervously gamble, with the game no doubt rigged.  “I think they’re setting him up for something big,” a lackey says, talking on a pay phone to Anthony Hopkins from half a world away.

After a pair of nitwit very old-time department store owners proposition Fiona and Gary.  Parsing the meeting later, Fiona scowls that “the mannequins are from the Civil War,” but “the age of the mannequins is not the deciding factor,” Gary barks in reply.  I had no idea!  See, you learn something new each day.  The way they bicker, the more we know which cliches are going to be hurled at us.  But there’s one not expected, which finds Lindsay holding two phone to her ears, one with Fiona, another from Gary, the pre-historic version of a conference call.  Lindsay decides against purchasing the Midwest stores (shame too, because Gary had the slogan all ready: “To Be the Best In The Midwest.”).  The cliches are getting closer, but Gary taking Fiona to a country bar is not exactly romantic.  Just as they are starting to look at each other dreamily, they get drunk with a brash obnoxious country couple, or perhaps hicks is a better word since they say things like, “yer accent is miiiighty strange.”

The expected kiss comes in the motel lobby.  “This is ridiculous,” Gary notes,” referring the obvious need to pay heed to their sexual desires rather than the script.  After they mate, Gary calls Lindsay to tell her they are getting married in two weeks.

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Gary is not playing a Viking in this movie and Fiona Fullerton is not showing her lack of dance prowess from “Strictly Come Dancing,” but I wanted you to see them doing better than they do here, which is a very easy task.

Back in Asia, Anthony’s lackey spies on a meeting at the casino, where no one will advance Christopher Blake any additional funds…except James Saito, who also advises him to sell his stocks and then buy them back when he’s in the money again.  Before the lackey can deliver the intel, two other lackeys kill him.

James has arranged for Christopher Casanove to meet Stephanie and she goes along with the plan to marry Christopher for power and money, while also bringing him down.  Trying to cut through her reserve, when she mentions the antiques she sells, he replies by telling her “Beijing glass definitely turns me on.”  Try using that line when wooing a lady and see report back reactions please.  She impresses him with her knowledge of Janus symbolism (his company is Janus and Janus).  “There’s a woman I want to destroy and a woman I want to impress.  The woman I will destroy, she’s coming to Hong Kong,” Christopher says, leading to the inevitable “and the woman you want to possess?” from Stephanie.

Christopher Blake’s financial manager informs him that James is a nasty character and there is no way to buy back the stock.

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Tragedy strikes when pack of horses are scared by Lindsay’s husband David Robb’s car.  They bolt, trampling their kid to the ground.  When Lindsay hears the news, it’s the first time she puts her family first and rushes home.

Looking all vixen and shoulder pads, Stephanie glides into Christopher Cazenove’s office with a glass of champagne.  When he puts the moves on her, she pushes him away.  “What is this, Saturday night after the school prom?” Christopher asks angrily.  “I don’t want it to be like this,” she purrs and unloads an I’m-Old-Fashioned speech, but barely finishes when…

Christopher Blake barges in, brandishing a gun and clearly unhinged.  Stephanie, who has more practice at creating distraction than the rest of her cast mates combined, creates a distraction so that Christopher Cazenove can call Christopher Blake a “miserable piece of flab” while beating the crap out of him.  “Tell your precious [Lindsay] I won’t be this easy on her,” Christopher Cazenove says as Christopher Blake crumbles to the floor.  “Thanks for saving my life,” he says to Stephanie.  Her definition of “old fashioned” is not quite what you may expect.  Almost being shot and watching her paramour beat the stuffing out of his cousin gets her heated enough to be taken right then and there.  Don’t mind the bloody man just outside the door, anyone.

With no blood stains but just a tad of black and blue marks on him from being pummeled, Christopher Blake attempts to call Lindsay, but she’s with her kid, so he leaves what sounds to be a suicide message with Lindsay’s secretary, who doesn’t seem to notice the desperation in his voice.  He then gulps down pills with a liquor chaser and cries.

At home, David snaps at Lindsay that it’s taken their son almost dying to be in the same room.  She blames herself, yes, but she’s also rather indignant and an argument starts.  “Abdicate, it’s been done before,” David says sarcastically.  “I can’t,” Lindsay replies, but wants him to wait a little longer for her to finish up a big deal.

The phone rings and they squabble about who should answer it.  Long after most people would have hung up and assumed no one was home, Lindsay goes to the phone.  She then make “the face.”  Yes, the face.  The face she made when she heard about the murder in the store and the face she made when she heard about her son’s accident.  This time it comes with the news that Christopher Blake is dead.  Her overacting reaches its zenith here.  Calm down lady, it’s only a suicide.  It’s not like anyone has changed the settings on your Sleep Number bed.

Anthony arrive in Hong Kong to investigate the death of his lackey, whose body has been found.  He first taunts Christopher Cazenove, in the middle of a karate class while Stephanie watches…with yet another glass of champagne.  You were expecting her to drink a bottle of water?

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(This is not Stephanie Beacham and her champagne in “To Be the Best,” but rather Stephanie Beacham and her champagne in “Celebrity Big Brother).

Next up, James Saito follow Anthony, baiting Anthony with questions and some good lies.  “Be lucky,” James tells Anthony.  “Stay ahead, try to stay ahead,” James replies.

Halfway into the movie, Lindsay FINALLY makes it to Hong Kong, driven to Christopher Cazenove’s house where she meets Stephanie as well (no champagne).  There’s a throwaway line where Christopher mentions all the time Lindsay spent at school in America.  I suppose that explains the accent, though one would assume she had a British accent long before she crossed the pond.

To end the first portion of the movie, Christopher tries once again to earn a place in American Miniseries history between “My name is Kunta Kinte” and “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” by hauling out his psychopathic credo: “It’s really most appropriate that you meet.  The woman I’m about to possess and the woman I will soon destroy.”

Sorry, that’s an immortal line flop.  The one form “Roots” is one of the most powerful lines ever delivered on television while the one from “Lace” is the campiest.  I’ll stick with the fortune cookie line.

So ends Part 1.

Fiona comes home to a mass of phone messages, talking back to them as if it’s a person while slipping into her undies and high heels, but when nefarious Stuart Wilson gets nasty with things like “so your whoring paid off,” she’s clearly upset.  She even gasps.

Over in Hong Kong, Christopher Cazenove is still trying to best Lindsay Wagner, telling an American contact to “pay off anybody you need to.”  When asked if there are any, he replies, “there are always limit,” but neglects to say what they are.  James Saito overhears the conversation and gets even sneakier while handing Christopher a glass of champagne at the hot tub.

Lindsay is onto Christopher, and asks her people how much company stock he has.  Not enough.  She has 51%, Christopher and his cousin Claire Oberman only 26% combined.  The rest of the shares “are virtually impossible to locate” since so many people own them.  We know that anything deemed impossible is certainly possible.

Fiona gets to play with her answering machine again, but doesn’t realize that Stuart is in her apartment.  He is furious at Gary Cady’s goofy love message, but erases one about business.  When Fiona enters, he beat the crap out of a Fiona double and/or rag doll, heading out quickly when she doesn’t get up from a nasty fall he’s caused (and Gary’s message is playing the whole time).  She is not dead.  When Gary shows up with flowers, a cop tells him, “you better get over to Roosevelt Hospital,” where a doctor tells him, “she probably won’t regain consciousness before he dies.”  Chipper bunch, ain’t they?11898_4

(He’s not wearing this outfit to hear the bad news)

Gary whispers his love to Fiona in a long speech.  Fiona is the luckiest unconscious near-death person ever on TV because she’s not hooked up to even one machine, he hair is perfectly coiffed and she has just a smallish gash on her face.  All of this in great lighting, by the way.  Gary goes to the set of Stuart Wilson’s soap opera, where he accosts him while filming, though no one explains why there are cops there to pull him off.

“Judging by he backhand, I would say she’s still a shopkeeper,” a nasal country club member (one of four bitchy Greek chorus members) in Hong Kong snipes about Stephanie Beacham as she and Christopher Cazenove play tennis.  It’s worse when Claire shows up at Stephanie’s store and clucks that there have never been been “shopkeeper” in the family, but Stephanie is ready for that one.  “I thought Harte’s was a shop,” she oozes.  “Size does matter,” Claire replies, not at all liking her sassy new cousin-in-law.  To end their argument about Stephanie giving up the store to be a power player’s wife, Claire wonders, “why do I think there is so much less to you than meets the eye?”  Stephanie files that one in her memory bank.  Stephanie then dashes from her store, followed closely by picture-snapping Anthony Hopkins, who snaps and a taxi halfway down the road hears it so he can play a game of “follow that car” with Stephanie.  It takes only one block before he loses her.

It’s fellow deceiver James Saito Stephanie is racing to meet, complaining about Claire’s visit.  James isn’t upset.  “She’s all mouth and pantyhose,” he says, referring to it as one of those things “they say.”  Who says that?  I’ve never heard that.  Stephanie can’t take being married to detestable Christopher Cazenove much longer.  “He’s a big, a selfish ruthless pig…he’s kinky,” she tell James, who tells her “a lot of women like that.”

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Fiona’s funeral doesn’t stop business from running.  The chain of stores Lindsay is being suckered into buying through the machinations of Christopher Cazenove is the only thing anyone can talk about.  The only person who doesn’t care about them is Lindsay’s husband, David Robb, who can’t hang around anyway.  Even grieving Gary tells Lindsay that Fiona “would have advised you to buy those stores.”

I’m a bit confused.  Lindsay has a meeting with her financial people (including one who is a mole for Christopher).  She has to decide whether or not to buy the chain of stores, and in order to do so, would have to sell her own stock.  She’s worried Christopher will get his hands on it, though a flunky tells her they will keep the sale a secret and sell it anonymously on the London Stock Exchange, which “opens eight hours ahead of Hong Kong.”  What?  The reverse is actually true.  Did he mean to say that the London Stock Exchange, behind Hong Kong eight hours, would be opening after Hong Kong has finished for the day?  No one in the room questions this, only me.

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“All right.  We bid.  We buy.  We expand,” Lindsay says, once again using her pseudo-British accent that is only used in a third or so of her scenes.  When Christopher hears, he all but has an orgasm telling James the good news, that Lindsay has “swallowed the bait” and is about to lose control of the company because he has far more than the 36% she thinks he does.  “How I’ve waited for this, ooooohhhhhh how I’ve waited for it,” he bellows in ecstasy.

Another howler scene pops up when Anthony pays a visit to the Hong Kong store and talks fashion with a flamboyant manager.  Anthony believes shoulder pads are on the way out and the skirts are too short.  As the flamboyant manager turns a fur toga into a sash (his words), Anthony learns what he came there to learn: where the store’s clothing is made.  He assumed London, but alas no, they are manufactured in Hong Kong.

If you have been waiting this whole time for a Chinese New Year celebration, complete with just one dragon, wake up for the last hour of the movie.  Lindsay and Anthony seem to be in the only car allowed around this one-dragon ado.  Mistaking a building for a famous temple, Lindsay muses, “I’ve come here so often, I never seem to leave the office.”  That’s Anthony’s cue to play tour guide.  He gives her a few facts and she she replies with, “you’re a regular Encyclopedia Britannica.”  Way to go with the smart-ass cracks, Linds.

Oh, wait, many of you may not get that reference.  They were sets of books with facts.  Oh, wait, many of you may not get that reference either.  Put it this way, between Gutenberg and Y2K, this was to be seen looking pretty and unused in many a household:

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They have shark fin soup on the floating casino (finally, this script has something in common with “Flower Drum Song”).  Only on the second bottle of wine does Lindsay say she knows nothing about Anthony.  She even asks if he has a wife and kids.  Wait, she remember the name of every person in every store owned by her family, but doesn’t know the marital status of her head of security, with whom she’s obviously been in (boring as hell love) without knowing it for at least the past 26 minute?

Just when Lindsay, drunk and jet lagged is about to kiss Anthony in the back of a taxi, the car careens hither and yon, which they could have guessed would happen due to the fact that the taxi that picked them up drove right in front of everyone in the rank.  Stupid pale faces.  The driver hits a wall, runs and THEN Anthony takes the time to note, “I think we’ve been set up.”  Considering he has yet to figure out one damn thing ahead of it happening, it’s par for his course.  From over a building comes flying a vase of flowery Chinoiserie and Anthony has to push Lindsay out of the way into a garbage pile of the most romantic kind.  “If it’s any consolation,” he says, “those flowers were meant for me.”  She’s perfectly okay with that.  He does a four-second sweep of her hotel room to make sure it’s safe, volunteers to leave, volunteers to stay for comfort and is then treated to honey word from the boss.  “I think this is the first time I’ve ever thanked anyone for saving my life,” he admits.  Not even when she was brought back to life and made Bionic?

The script hits new lows with their small talk on the couch (revealing her failures as a wife and mother, which he would know of had he been doing a good job of protecting her) before the clinch.  Before removing a jacket or a toupee, Anthony rushes to the door when he hears a noise, which turns out to be Lindsay’s husband and son!  Surprise!

Hubby David Robb, between the make-up and the kimono looking like he’s auditioning for a bus-and-truck tour of “La Cage,” is not happy, he knows thinks he know what was about to happen, even when Lindsay explains dramatically how upset she is over almost being killed (they must have cut that part, because she’s even calmer than when the bomb took out her secretary).  She sobs as she recounts her recent horrors and David softens.  “I cannot do everything I do and be everything I want to be withou

Wait, wait, wait, forget Lindsay and David and all their boringness.  Let’s see what’s going on with the villains.  Christopher Cazenove is watching porn when Stephanie shuffles in, and he tells her “she could learn a lot” from the perky model on the screen.  “Like this?” she coos, dropping one shoulder of her robe.  Christopher mentions hookers, throws her to the bed and just as as Christopher is nibbling her décolletage, she asks, “are we rich?”  She wants to learn how to do business, so he puts her hand on his, well, slot machine lever, though saved by a call that elates Christopher.  “Are we even more rich now?” she asks.  I honestly have no idea what was really going on in this scene.

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Tony Hopkins, or more likely his stunt double, shimmies up a building and through the window into the warehouse making the clothes for the store, only to cut open a dress and find drugs inside.  Drugs?  Aha, we’ve solved a mystery!  Aha, no we haven’t.  Not once have we heard anything about drugs.  Trust me, if we had, the power of suggestion would have kicked in and I could finish “To Be The Best” with far less pain.  He is then attacked by two young Asian men, but manage to overcome both.  “I’m gettin’ too old for this,” he carps as he locks them both in a wooden box.

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Showdown time!

Time for Lindsay and Christopher to have it out.  Over everything.  He even bitches at her for refusing to take a seat because he doesn’t feel like getting up.  But then he actually does get up with no problem at all when Lindsay says she refuses to see the business started by their grandmother be destroy.  “And you were her favorite granddaughter and I her un-favorite grandson,” Christopher spits, to open the set-to.  Lindsay lays out all of the rational reasons why he should stop doing what he’s doing, but he drags up the past and nastily offers her a management role of one of their new store in Baltimore.  That’ll show her!

Boy, when cousins fight, huh?

They can’t even battle with any spark of interest at this point.  That wasn’t even a slight argument, let alone a seething overflow of hatred.

Back at the casino, Anthony is trying to put the piece of whatever the hell plot is going on in order, with the help of a working girl whose scenes would be cut from any re-release of “To Be The Best.”  Why?  Movie English.  “Me no work for Madame Claude…girls who work for Madame Claude get very very rich…Maybe you get me job at Madame Claude?” for example. She also giggles into her hand.  She does everything but crack open a fortune cookie.  Anthony tries to get info out of the casino owner, who swears he knows nothing of anything (join the club), “on my mother’s grave!” he swears.  “Wrong church…you never had a mother,” Tony replies.

Run that by me again!  Nope, doesn’t make any sense.  Skip it.  Nothing else in the conversation is any better, so Anthony takes his exit with, “ciao Charlie,” to a character whose name is Tony.

Claire calls Christopher, pretending to be kidnapped, begging for him to rescue her, room number and all, but it’s a sham.  What he finds are James Saito and Stephanie Beacham in bed.  Yup, as wealthy as everyone is, they still use hourly hotels in this movie.  Times must be tough.  He tires to karate chop it up with shirtless James.

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(not shirtless and Google was no help–if only I had an Encyclopedia Britannica handy…)

Thankfully, as James clues Christopher in on his plotting and scheming, he remains shirtless.  He’s sexy anyway, but since this miniseries is so devoid of oomph, I’ll take what I can get.  He announcing he’s got the swing stock votes and that he is responsible for the drugs.  “Harte Enterprises doesn’t ship drugs,” Christopher replies.  What?  You mean they aren’t claiming it in customs documents?  How very sneaky of them.

Stephanie wanders around the room trailing James for cigarette ash in yet another brave yellow dress.

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Christopher decries the plan, but James has the stock and insists Christopher let it happen, promising to “almost alway” vote with Christopher when it comes to the company.  “What about her?” Christopher snarls.  “She remains always at your side and takes a very big interest in affairs of the company,” James replies, Stephanie looking less-than-thrilled-but-resigned-or-thinking-of-something-else.

“If you’ve got a floor fight on your hands, you could do worse than follow the M-16 manual,” Anthony advises Lindsay right before the stockholders meeting.  She’s confused by that.  Understandably.  He then tells her Madame Claude, the dress designer we keep hearing about “is a member of the oldest profession, a whore.”  Thank for that late-sentence clarification.  After painfully rambling on about nothing, screen hog, he says he’ll give her information he can use at the banquet, which is followed not by the information, but rather the banquet set-up and more Movie Chinese.

Pouty Christopher, pouty-but-regal Stephanie and pouty-despite-his-victory James arrive for the black-tie brouhaha, along with the murmuring extras.  Lindsay sports this:

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It takes Anthony’s breath away, but then again, he’s been chasing criminal, in Hong Kong in a toupee, so I can’t be sure the breathing issues are related to the schmatta she wears under careful and dim lighting. “Not bad for a Chairman of the Board,” he says before escorting her down to the banquet.

True to form, Christopher is baffled by the seating arrangements (remember, at the last fight, he was too tired to stand up since Lindsay wouldn’t sit), but it’s really just an excuse to remind viewers of who have what stock, the surprise to Lindsay being told about James’ shares.  Lindsay isn’t cowed.  She’s counting on the 5% of people who have stock but no character names or lines.

Lindsay has a trump card in her purse, a fax of Stephanie so hazy it’s hard to tell it’s human, let alone Stephanie, who went by the name “La Princess” while, you guessed it, working at Madame Claude’s.  “You’ve married a prostitute,” Lindsay adds, as if he’s not connecting the dots.  “You fool!  I told you she was nothing but a cheap opportunist,” Claire hisses.  Jonathan cooly tries to minimize the damage by saying, “So what? It was a long time ago, she’s a Born-Again Christian, now she goes to church everyday.”  Yup, you read it right.  It’s in the script.

Yet again, the American Miniseries judges while trying to be glamorous.  The mere mention of her past can be used by Lindsay to silence Christopher, but even by 1992, no one would have cared.

James tries to usher the leads into the banquet by saying he’s still backing Christopher, but Anthony reminds him he’s “nothing but a grubby little drug pusher.”  He explains by offering this: “Believe it or not, as Mr Ripley used to say, the shoulder pads in the Lady Hamilton dresses are absolutely loaded with the stuff.”

Please tell me the writers of this claptrap died before writing this scene and the actors are just vamping.  What the hell does Mr. Ripley have to do with it?  And why wouldn’t they believe it?  Because they must all be from a long line of cousins marrying cousins, these idiot family members?  There hasn’t been an ounce of intelligence on display since Deborah Kerr.

Anthony plays this scene as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Jessica Fletcher, smart and judgmental, as well a murky, but it’s so full of both snoozy cliches and outrageous plot revelations that it’s hard to care.  He offer James the chance to run…into the waiting arms of the police.  They arrest Christopher as well on the whole drug partnership and then Lindsay shoos out Claire and Stephanie.

With all the extras clapping and ooohhh/aaahhhing just as instructive, Lindsay can address the assembly and use her projection device to light up the newest Harte store.  She gets a kiss from her husband, a wink from Anthony and an eye roll from me.

At the airport, everyone is once again flying coach, except Mr. Hopkins.  He’s there, but not boarding the plane with Lindsay and family.  She pulls him aside to thank him:

“My son thinks you’re James Bond.”

“Really?  All except James Bond gets the beautiful girl at the end.”

“And you don’t?”

“No, not lately.”

“Thank you…for everything.”

At the grave of the empire’s founder, Lindsay freshens the flowers and warmly says, “you’re still the best.”

Indeed, but it’s not like anyone else was aiming even for mediocre.

$_35

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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