Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ultimate Lifetime Original Movie

Taking a look at cable television, it seems that most channels cannot keep their supposed concepts pure. Desperate for ratings, most channels will sacrifice their alleged themes to air anything they think will attract viewers. That’s why Law and Order reruns get aired on the Sci-Fi Channel or The Learning Channel will show just about anything regardless of whether any actual learning is involved.

But one channel is not only good at keeping its concept pure, it also seems to have spawned an entire genre of films that only it could air. Of course, we’re talking about the Lifetime Cable Network, home of the “woman in peril” film, known to one and all as the “Lifetime Original Movie”.

The Lifetime formula is simple really; take Meredith Baxter, Joanna Kerns, Tori Spelling or any number of young or middle aged actresses, give them a perfect life, then pull the rug out from under them. Slap a ridiculous sounding title that sometimes has little to do with the actual movie (Like “Fatal Deception”, “Strip Me Deadly”, “They Took Her Son, They Took Her Life” or “Fatal Accomplice”) and you’ve got a Lifetime Original Movie!

Some people simplistically try to claim that every Lifetime Original Movie features the central thesis that “Women are good and Men are bad.” This is far from the truth; for example, if the guy is Meredith Baxter’s son, he’s probably good. In fact, about the only thing that is a must for a Lifetime movie is that everything must start out perfect for the main heroine. In fact, we know that everything is perfect because our heroine will spend the first fifteen minutes of the movie living the good life and telling everyone around her who will listen how perfect her life is.

Then comes the bombshell- it can be anything really, but it has to bring the world down for our heroine and provide her with a cause to pursue. Rest assured, however, that regardless of the depths her life sinks to, our main character will triumph, even getting a chance to gloat about how she’s back on top.

So just to illustrate how easy it is to put together a Lifetime movie, let’s create one for Meredith Baxter-

With Friends Like These

Meredith Baxter is sitting on top of the world. She lives in a lavish McMansion with her husband Bruce Boxleitner and her days are spent shopping in lavish malls and taking advantage of the tony country club she is a member of with her best friend in the world, played by Megan Mullaly. With her young daughter out of the nest and working in the city with a high paying job, Ms. Baxter’s character anticipates growing old with her husband and preparing for the loads of grandchildren her daughter will no doubt bear.

But then- disaster strikes! Ms. Baxter’s husband dies in a freak accident. Bereft, she takes solace in the fact that her husband had a hefty retirement portfolio so that she can continue to live the life she has grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, her husband’s employer is an Evil Capitalist(tm) who points to a clause in her husband’s retirement plan that doesn’t require him to pay out a nickel due to the circumstances of his death. Luckily for Ms. Baxter, he tells her that he has a heart and cuts a check for $1,000. Ms. Baxter tries to see what her legal recourse is, only to discover that she has none and should just get on with her life.

Soon, she finds herself having to sell off the McMansion to pay the bills her husband left behind. She must give up her country club membership, which makes her wealthy friends look down their noses at her. Even Megan Mullaly ignores her calls. ‘At least I have my daughter’ thinks Ms. Baxter, but when her daughter discovers that there isn’t going to be an inheritance, she becomes cold to her own mother.

Depressed and forced to make a living on her own, Ms. Baxter takes a job as a waitress at a coffee shop. She makes a new friend in one of the other waitresses, a sassy black woman played by Alfre Woodard. Ensconced in a cheap apartment and blessed with a steady job, Ms. Baxter is down, but not out.

In the course of her work, Ms. Baxter stumbles upon a problem in the food service industry that she thinks she can solve with a unique invention. The invention is a success at the Coffee Shop, but she needs seed money to fully capitalize on her million dollar idea. The Coffee Shop owner, a jerk who has little regard for women rejects her, as do her old friends, who laugh in her face. Dejected, she sees her opportunity to make money on her invention slipping away. But, there was one person who she hasn’t asked yet- Alfre Woodard. Ms. Woodard’s character tells Ms. Baxter that she’s been squirreling money away for a rainy day and “It’s rainin’ cats and dogs today, honey!” At this time, Ms. Baxter reconciles with her daughter who admits how stupid she was and also invests in her mother’s idea.

Ms. Baxter and Ms. Woodard become partners and use their spare time to produce their new product. After a few tense minutes with their first potential customer, they soon discover that their product is a hit. Money starts rolling in and they both quit their jobs, leaving their jerky former employer speechless. The ladies soon become the toast of the town and the business world, getting their pictures in every business magazine and newspaper. Soon, their small company outgrows its small offices and they find themselves overseeing a million dollar business with hundreds, if not thousands of workers.

So, is the movie over? Not yet. You see, Ms. Baxter has to gloat, so her old friend Megan Mullaly invites her to lunch. Ms. Baxter accepts the invitation and calmly catches up with her friend. “That was a bad spell for you wasn’t it?” notes Ms. Mullaly, “Lucky it’s now all over. Let’s do lunch again next week.” Cue Ms. Baxter’s angry tirade. Ms. Mullaly gets to purse her lips and look embarrassed when Meredith storms out of the restaurant, vowing to never see Ms. Mullaly ever again.

So, is that it? Nope, because it appears that her husband’s old company somehow wants to buy her new company because they are making so much money and are somehow in the same line of business. (Something we barely learn at this point.) Ms. Baxter triumphantly enters the office of the Evil Capitalist(tm) who tells her that he hopes there’s no hard feelings and that the buyout offer is more than fair. At this point, Ms. Baxter refuses the offer and a member of the company’s board of directors storms into the office to shake Ms. Baxter’s hand. Why, you ask? Because they are selling out to Ms. Baxter’s company, of course! To add insult to injury, Ms. Baxter hands the Evil Capitalist(tm) his severence check- $1,000!

So, is the movie over? Yes, mostly. But first, we see Ms. Baxter, Ms. Woodard and Ms. Baxter’s daughter sipping champagne a few weeks later- in what used to be the Evil Capitalist’s(tm) office! Then we fade out.

That’s it- the quintessential Lifetime movie, right off the top of our heads. Substitute Joanna Kerns or throw something to do with cancer in there and you’d have an entirely new film. See how easy it is?

**Keep in mind that this idea is (c) Ralphland Productions, so if you work for Lifetime and see this, don’t get any ideas. (But if you like the idea, we can talk…..)