The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, June 03, 2004  

The Big Screen v. Lifetime TV

Although I have referred to these projects in the past, it remains, justifiably, not widely known that I am working, very slowly, on two different screenplays. Meanwhile, longtime readers know I have a weakness for cheesy Lifetime TV movies.

Given the number of such films as I have seen, I thought I knew enough to have determined the would-be screenwriter’s formula for success on that network. But one of my brothers, taking on the pretend role of a Lifetime TV movie screenwriter, one surprisingly knowledgeable about the intricacies of the genre, once wisely observed, “And there shall be a secondary character, an African-American woman. She dispenses wisdom.”

(He’s dead on with that. Just this afternoon, Lifetime showed “A Time to Heal,” which in addition to starring the, um, incomparable Nicollette Sheridan, featured Lorraine Toussaint, see below, as a physical therapist who, well, dispensed wisdom.)

I have to admit I’ve taken my brother’s advice to heart.

I’ll reveal only this about one of my screenplays: The film’s story line includes a nurse at a senior-citizens home, a nurse who could be played by an African-American actress -- I’m thinking Toussaint, CCH Pounder, or S. Ephata Merkerson, any one of which I would be thrilled to see in a starring role in my film -- who dispenses medications while she also dispenses wisdom.

Hey, look, it’s a formula. I’m aiming for the big screen, but if in the end I can master the Lifetime TV formula, I’ll be happy to cash the check.

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