Ron Miller Kathie Lee:
Diva of Drama
Kathie Lee Gifford works up a drama tempest opposite co-star Howie Mandel
Kathie Lee as a pill=popping bitch
-- the role America's dying to see?
By RON MILLER
WHAT KATHIE Lee Gifford really needs, some brilliant career tactician must have suggested, is a great role that will bust up her "goody two-shoes" image and propel her into a whole new realm of work opportunities.
You mean, like maybe as a titan of industry, rooted, perhaps, in her extensive experience as a sweathouse operator in the Far East for the fashion industry?
No, they were thinking: Kathie Lee Gifford, diva of drama.
Yes, you read that line correctly. That's where somebody thinks Mrs. Gifford's best shot for future employment might be in the years after "Live...with Regis & Kathie Lee." I hasten to point out that I'm not that somebody.
Not after seeing her in her first major dramatic showcase, a new made-for-TV movie called "Spinning Out of Control," which premieres March 18 on the E! Entertainment cable network. Believe me, all dramatic divas of stage and screen, do not fear Kathie Lee will be nipping at your heels anytime soon.
First, though, I should remind everyone that I remain steadfast in my belief that it's unfair to bad-mouth Kathie Lee Gifford just because she appears to be a nice, decent, God-fearing woman. I continue to believe that most of the negative stuff we read about her comes from people who simply delight in profaning the sacred.
I also want to add that I'm confident that Kathie Lee, given a decent script and a good director, could do a fine job as a dramatic actress. Among TV personalities from the talk show world, she's probably at least as good a dramatic actress as Dr. Laura could be, given the same material. But I doubt if she'll ever earn an Oscar nomination like Oprah Winfrey, who's surely the all-time best dramatic actress in the talk show world.
All that said, I still must ask the question: WHAT WAS SHE THINKING WHEN SHE SIGNED UP FOR THIS MOVIE?
For starters, it's an absolutely awful movie. The E! network still hasn't learned how to make movies, so it ought to quit and just go back to hyping the movies made by others. "Spinning Out of Control" wants to be both serious and ludicrous at the same time. So far, I believe George W. Bush is the only person who has mastered that technique.
In the movie, Gifford plays Amanda Berkeley, star of the hit network sitcom "Whaddaya Want, Mom?" The gimmick is that everybody in the great TV audience just loves her, earning her the nickname "America's Sweetheart," even though she's a selfish, egomaniacal bitch in real life.
In other words, Kathie Lee somehow got herself talked into making a movie that kids her own tabloid image as the TV star who's just too good to be true and an iron butterfly in real life. Worse than that, she does things on screen that are the TV equivalent of seeing The Pope enjoying himself at a screening of "Debbie Does Dallas."
Who needed to see America's Sweetheart involved in such depravity?
For example, do you want to see Kathie Lee delaying production on her sitcom by staying in her trailer with a handsome young stud screenwriter while they're, in her words, "pounding out a new story"? Do you want to see the trailer shaking and her screaming in ecstasy while they do the aforementioned "pounding"? I didn't think so.
Do you want to see her going from drug store to drug store, trying to load up on painkillers? When one pharmacist tells her he can't refill the prescription because he's just filled it and all the pills are still in the bottle, she up-ends the whole bottle into her mouth, swallows them all, then tells him, "Now refill it!"
Do you want to see her burn her house down after setting fire to a couch "because I hated it"? And, especially, do you want to hear Kathie Lee Gifford cuss like a dockworker? Well, maybe you do, but I'm pretty sure Jerry Falwell doesn't.
What this awful movie does is shamelessly exploit this woman as she struggles with the discomfort of an image that limits her. If it did that with great humor, it might be worth the time to watch it. But it doesn't. Even with comedian Howie Mandel as her agent, there isn't a laugh anywhere.
And, of course, playing a character so ridiculously out of control gives Gifford a grand opportunity to overact. She didn't need that. What she needed was the chance to create a character we might like, letting her own considerable charm and talent lead the way. The result is a great career stumble--that, unfortunately for her, will get her another huge dose of publicity that won't do her any good.
© 2001 by Ron Miller. The photos are © 2001 by E! Entertainment Network.
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