Monday, September 26, 2011

Frequent Flyer and The Man with Three Wives


When doing a little research for my post on A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, I came to realize that YouTube is a treasure trove of full-length Lifetime movies, many of them taped off TV and painstakingly uploaded in 10-minute chunks. (Don't worry, I made a playlist for you.) One such movie is "The Man with Three Wives," a delightfully overwrought Lifetime movie from 1993 in which a man has three wives (obviously) that don't know about each other. I stayed up way too late watching it, the whole time thinking about a man-with-three-secret-wives movie from my past. The first movie I ever fell in love with because it was so bad it was good, it was also from the 90s, but it starred a sexy pilot. Three seconds of googling led me to "Frequent Flyer," also available on YouTube! Yes, this is what the internet was invented for. Needless to say, I got up the next morning and watched the entire thing before lunchtime. (As someone who's self-employed, this happens much more rarely than you might think.)

Whether you enjoy bad movies about polygamy as much as I do, or are simply sick in bed and don't have a TV in your room, I suggest you indulge in this double-bigamy double feature yourself. It really gives you both sides of the secret polygamy coin: sometimes it's super-sexy and free from all consequences except your kid hating you; and sometimes it's somewhat-sexy and free from all consequences except you die from the stress. Either way, you definitely need a beeper to pull it off.

Since you have to have a beeper, it's good to have an early 90s job where you might plausibly need to get paged about things. The sexy pilot is always getting beeped about emergency flights or something (I guess), while the other man with three wives is a doctor. Of course, those are just their cover stories--neither man actually gets beeped by his employer in either movie. Meanwhile, their wives are always complaining about "that damn beeper" while the other wives are beeping him because they don't know where the hell he is, or they're horny.

Beau Bridges rocks the Billy Mays
beard and spends much of the movie
open-mouthed, thinking of excuses
Perhaps not surprisingly, the sexy pilot husband (Jack Wagner, aka the future Mr. Heather Locklear) pulls this off better than the doctor husband (Beau Bridges, who looks positively Billy Maysesque in his shaggy beard). First of all, he's got the benefit of several hundred miles between all his wives. Secondly, he needs all those wives just because he's so hot he needs to have sex all the time. When "Frequent Flyer" starts, he's flying a plane while fantasizing about all the sex he had with his Hawaiian girlfriend, even though he already has a wife in Chicago and a wife in Dallas. When "The Man with Three Wives" begins, on the other hand, Beau Bridges is having a dream where he's getting married and his bride's face is a featureless blob covered in someone's old pantyhose. He then wakes up, and the entire movie is a flashback while he tosses and turns in bed, pops some pills, and ultimately has a heart attack. You can't help but feel sorry for him--each new wife seems like an act of desperation, and unlike the pilot polygamist, all his wives live nearby, so he lives in constant fear of them running into each other, like when his frist wife visits him at work while his second wife is on her way to come meet him.

Wife #2 doesn't even have the decency to remove her hat
In "Frequent Flyer," meanwhile, the first wife begins to suspect something only 15 minutes into the movie, when she finds a receipt for an expensive purchase and then does some snooping of the jealous wife 'n' gal pal variety to discover that it was an engagement ring. She decides to buy a ticket on one of her husband's flights, then sneak aboard by wearing large sunglasses and a trench coat. Luckily he (or their copilot friend) doesn't spot her getting on or off, and she hides around the corner where she can watch in horror as her husband's Chicago wife starts making out with him the second he gets off the plane. Of course, she assumes this is the new fiancée, and not a second wife...it's getting downright kooky in this movie!

One thing I learned from watching this double-bigamy double feature is that wives come in patterns. If you're a guy who decides to live a triple life rather than commit to one person or find a swinger to love, you're probably going to follow a very precise sequence of wives. Your first wife will be a woman you'll have kids with, and therefore everything is very boring. (The doctor's first wife is downright not hot, and they don't even have sex once during the movie!) She'll have boring hobbies, like antiques and bike safety advocacy, and she'll yell at you all the time about your beeper and your lack of cash, which she apparently doesn't keep close enough track of to realize two-thirds of your paycheck is going elsewhere. Your recreational activities with this wife will include family ski vacations and worrying about your child, who may or may not be waiting to find out if he was accepted into your alma mater, Dexter Academy.

Beau Bridges steams up his all-white house with his
second wife (Joanna Kerns from "Growing Pains"). The
pilot's second wife also lives in an all-white house. Chic.
Your second wife will be hot, horny, and demanding. She will live in an all-white house, and you'll often have to attend cocktail parties with her. She'll be really into her career, so you won't have to worry about her wanting babies, plus, you can just tell her that your kid(s) from your "last" marriage are really pissed about the divorce and don't want to meet her. She'll be easily appeased by your half-assed attempt at every aspect of your relationship: When the doctor's second wife wants to meet the first one, he takes her by his wife's bike helmet kiosk at the mall, then uses some vague language to introduce them. All goes well, and they never meet again. Meanwhile, the pilot's second wife decides to buy a home in Dallas, where he lives most of the time, and closes on it before he's ever even seen it. (Again, she either doesn't need proof of his annual salary or is too dumb to realize it doesn't jive with the amount of savings he has.) Best of all, if your second wife starts asking too many questions, you can just start making out if her till she relents--in fact, Pilot Jack Wagner spends so much time kissing his second wife while she's looking angry that it starts to get creepy.

Your third wife will be the one you should have divorced all the previous wives to be with. In the doctor's case it's Pam Dawber (Mindy from "Mork and Mindy"), who he spent the first 20 minutes of the movie chasing after, only to lose her to a dentist who she marries, has a kid with, and divorces...just in time for him to swoop in and sweep her off her feet by telling her he sat in his car outside her wedding like a weirdo creep and that he wants to marry her RIGHT THIS SECOND. In the case of the pilot, his third, ideal wife is a freewheeling twenty-something who is too dumb to realize that he is a loser. Unfortunately, she's such a freewheeler that she decides to go with her new husband to Dallas, on the exact same day his second wife has just moved there, three blocks away from his first wife!

Luckily for the pilot's heart health, his hijinks involving having three wives in the same city don't last very long, because on Christmas, having three wives is logistical feat that's hard for even the most seasoned secret polygamist to pull off. The doctor starts with his third, most-loved wife and her daughter. After a Christmas Eve worthy of a perfect-family award, he cuddles up with them, then announces that he has to leave that very night to go tend to the all the kids spending their last Christmas in the Dying Kids Ward at the hospital. Since the hospital he works at is several hours away, she can't really offer to drag her kid along at 11:00 at night on Christmas Eve, and the fact that he's just now telling her he isn't going to be there on Christmas Day apparently doesn't start a fight so big that it takes until New Year's to sort out.

Joanna Kerns, alone at Christmas
He arrives at his second wife's house early on Christmas morning, and unfortunately for him, she's been up all night staring at their all-white Christmas tree alone. She's furious, but when he explains that he was at the airport thinking about her all night, she forgives him immediately, and isn't even mad that night when he uses his #1, so good it'll get you outta Christmas, "dying kids" excuse. By the time he shows up at his first wife's house, his teenaged kids are really pissed at him, but aren't they always? His dowdy wife demands they eat their late dinner immediately--but he's so full already! Of course, as he sits down at the table with the cold, uneaten turkey sitting in the middle, she asks if he's hungry. Oh first wife, you don't have a clue!

Jack and his copilot friend only wear
Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii, obviously
In fact, it's the first wife's astuteness that really makes "Frequent Flyer" the better of the two movies, if I am being forced to choose between them like two equally hot wives. While the pilot is busy watching Hawaiian ladies belly dance at his third wedding, his first wife is cutting up all his credit cards and moving all her money into separate bank accounts. Since she's busy getting vengeance for most of the movie, you don't feel as bad about what her husband is doing. Meanwhile, as "The Man with Three Wives" wore on without a single wife catching a whiff of the other wives, I began to worry that no one would find out until he was dead (death being a practically unavoidable event in Lifetime movies), meaning that there would be no comeuppance for the lying, cheating Dr. Bridges.

Sure enough, Pam Dawber doesn't find out he's already twice-married until shortly before he dies of a heart attack from all the stress. She's been suspicious that he's cheating on her, but he says she's just imagining it all, and suggests they go to couple's therapy. But when they're in the therapist's office, his beeper goes off (naturally), and while he's out of the room, the therapist suggests that maybe Pam should be 100 percent sure he really isn't cheating before she seeks treatment for paranoia. Well, it turns out that the doctor didn't try any harder than the pilot at hiding his finances--her PI discovers just as easily as the pilot's wife's did that he isn't just her husband.

We have Pam Dawber's biggest fan,
MorkandMindy333, to thank for
putting this movie on YouTube
She confronts the doctor and tells him to suck it, and he (almost hopefully) asks, "Have you spoken to anyone else?" She tells him he can clean up his own messes, but apparently he can't, because he has a heart attack and dies that very evening. Then, the money scene, which I've embedded below: The doctor's best friend/fellow doctor is all, "Somebody call his wife," because everyone at the hospital thinks he's only married to the second wife, who used to work there. He later has to inform the second wife that Dr. Bridges is dead, and that he never divorced the other wife. Soon, wife #2 and wife #3 are throwing things around in his office and cursing their bad luck at falling in love with the scoundrel. It's never really said whether the first wife knows there are two other wives; in the last scene of the movie she and their kids dump his ashes off the side of a cliff.


In "Frequent Flyer," it's the first wife who has a heart attack, when the second wife shows her her engagement ring and she realizes there's a third woman. Luckily, it's not fatal, but the third wife finds out about it when the copilot calls her looking for pilot (doesn't he know he has a beeper?), and blabs that he's already married. She shows up at the hospital, and there's a medium-sized confrontation between her, the second wife, and Pilot Jack. She's all, "My father will ruin you!" and slaps him, but it doesn't seem like it hurts that badly. Then the second wife does what can only be described as Frenching him, and says "I knew you were too good to be true." Yeah, a guy who's never around or has any money is pretty great. Too bad you have to leave him when you find out he's a polygamist, lady.

Pilot Jack Wagner looking forlorn after all his wives who
aren't unconscious leave him
"Why'dja do it?" The copilot asks Jack, when he runs into him at the airport, spying on his ex-wife and son because his son hates him too much to even say goodbye to him before he leaves for Dexter Academy. Jack gives his trademark squint and says, "I was scared of losin' one of 'em." But no one died, and he was a crappy dad anyway, so it's not so dramatic as the ashes off the cliff. In fact, as he's leaving the airport, he runs into a woman and her briefcase busts open, and he helps pick up her papers off the floor. I'm sure I don't have to tell you where that leads.

Frequent Flyer on YouTube
The Man with Three Wives on YouTube



Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story


When "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story" originally aired on CBS in 1992 (four years before the LMN was even born), no one could have known that it was destined to become a Lifetime movie classic--perhaps even the Lifetime movie classic. Its schmaltzy treatment of serious family problems of the muderin' sort isn't only stereotypical Lifetime, it may have even helped to create the entire Lifetime movie genre. (I have no basis for this statement, of course, but I am considered an expert source on TV tropes.) Played on Lifetime and the LMN more than five gajillion times, it has become even more famous (at least, the circles I run in, ahem) than the real-life court case that preceded it.

Dan Broderick shares a laugh
with his attractive secretary/
future second wife
Betty Broderick, as the name of her movie would suggest, is a woman scorned. After being married for sixteen years and having several lovable children, her balding husband leaves her for his secretary. Burn! But Betty is more than just pissed off. She's bat-shit crazy--like, Deadly and Fatal Vows crazy. And, since this is Lifetime, the movie starts at the end and the entire thing is a flashback. So even if you don't remember the real Betty Broderick trial, you already know that Betty is in jail for murdering both her husband and his secretary.

(Lunatic) + (Murder) = (Entertainment for women) has long been a formula for Lifetime movie success. If you ever watch LMN between the hours of noon and six you know that if they're showing a movie from the early 90s, there's a 60% chance it has a crazy lady in it. But the star-power in "A Woman Scorned" elevates it from the usual weekday rotation to something much more: marathon-worthy.

Betty's cheating husband (Dan), is played by Stephen Collins--and if that name doesn't ring any bells, how about the name "Reverend Eric Camden"? If you still said no, I don't believe you. Collins hugs his way through this movie even better than he did on 7th Heaven or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, although he does suffer from that awful condition--being a man--that makes him lust after his secretary and marginalize his wife.

Betty's wardrobe is impeccable,
even when burning her husband's
Meanwhile, Meredith Baxter hams it up all the way to an Emmy nomination. Really, who doesn't want to see the mom from "Family Ties" lose it? (Even Betty Broderick herself approved.) And lose it Betty Baxter does. At first it's little things, like freaking out about her Christmas present or scheduling change. Soon, she's ruining a family vacation (and a veal roast), and setting Dan's clothes on fire in front of the house. You won't be surprised that it doesn't go too smoothly when Dan announces he wants a divorce. When he asks her why she'd even want to stay with him, she says, "Because you owe me." Whoa.

It isn't long before Dan has promoted his secretary (sorry, his "legal assistant"--when Dan's real secretary, the mom from "That 70s Show," quits because the woman Dan's screwing has only been there 6 months, has an office, and doesn't even know how to type, he helpfully informs her that she doesn't have to know how to type, because she's a legal assistant). He's also bought her a ring and moved her into the house. He won't put his love-life on hold to deal with his insane wife and three children, dammit! He has masquerade balls to attend, and the only thing that looks good with his top hat is a blonde.

The perfect outfit for a rampage?
A shiny green shirt, red-striped
jacket, mom jeans, and gold flats.
After Betty's 8-year-old son asks her to stop calling the house and leaving messages on the answering machine that contain phrases like "that oversexed syphilitic piece of white trash," she really has no choice but to break into the house, spray-paint the wall, and throw some vases around. But just when you think that's as wild as this props budget is going to get, Betty decides to interrupt family dinner by driving her blue Suburban through the living room wall. If you've never seen this classic bit of Lifetime cinema, you have to watch it below. If you have seen it, I know you need no prompting to watch it again--actually, you get to watch it three times, because they spliced the film to show the truck running into the house again, and again, and again, as if it's all one shot. (I also have my suspicions that the tire-squealing sound effects are the same ones they used in "Back to the Future.")




Well, it's all downhill from there. Betty steals the RSVP list for Dan and the blonde's upcoming wedding, and that's where they have to draw the line. They press charges, and Betty's only recourse is to show up in the middle of the night and discharge the prop gun. Even further downhill (cinematically speaking), is the two-hour follow-up movie: "Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter." Any Lifetime movie that takes place mostly in a courtroom sucks, but in the 2nd Betty movie it's especially worse because you don't get to see Meredith Baxter's crazy 90s outfits when she's in jail. There's significantly less "Golden Girls" music, and worst of all, there's not enough stuff in prison or court for Betty to destroy.

In the first movie there's
also an extensive collection
of 90s sunglasses

What makes "A Woman Scorned" not only the superior of the two movies, but cherished by every lover of cheesy TV films is more than just aesthetics and scenery. And it's not the Suburban through the side of the house either. (Go ahead, go watch it again. I'll wait.) Because of its cheap production values, (most) TV programming has always been a great barometer of the times--like how holding an old photograph gives you just as much sensory input as the photo itself. "A Woman Scorned" reminds us not only that swirly white type for the opening credits was very classy, but women coming to age in this generation had been talked into being wives without ever being told they might get divorced.

Early on in the movie, Betty and her friend run into a mutual acquaintance at the mall. When they find out she recently got divorced, they're fascinated and slightly, secretly scandalized, like a modern-day rich suburban lady might feel if a fellow member of the PTA announced that she had decided to start sleeping with women. As for Susan, Betty's divorced friend? She's happy, yet sad! Luckily, shopping helps.

Stephen Collins' hairline has remained
remarkably consistent over the years
That the advent of easy divorce is the fault of men is no surprise to anyone who's seen the many revenge movies that have been based on "A Woman Scorned." Pretty much everything that women don't like is the fault of men. From watching Lifetime, I've learned that men just don't appreciate women, whether they're not helping with the wedding, doing coke on their honeymoon, or killing escorts behind your back. And a woman who does anything other than sitting passively back is a woman who deserves to have her name in a Lifetime movie subtitle. There's no better symbol of this "look at what you made me do" mentality than Betty--Meredith Baxter herelf said she understood where Betty was coming from...until public sentiment changed and she went back to film the sequel.

Star Jones may remember best the scene where Betty lights Dan's clothes on fire, but my favorite will always be a short one sometime in the middle of the movie. Betty is sitting at the edge of her backyard pool in the middle of the night: dumped, alone, and wearing an impressive set of Asian-themed pajamas. She's eating potato chips, dipping each one into the pool like it's some kind of chlorine-flavored French onion dip. You can't help but feel sorry for her. But seriously...that bitch is crazy, people! Classic Lifetime.






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