Picks and Pans Review: Pygmalion

updated 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SHOWTIME (9-11 p.m. ET)

Nothing here threatens the beloved memory of Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady. Peter O'Toole and Margot Kidder have the leads in this adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw comedy on which the Broadway musical was based. As Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller demonstrated on film in 1938, the play can sing, even without lyrics by Lerner and Loewe. But this time around the performances are off-key. O'Toole seems to be sleepwalking through his portrayal of the phonetics expert who turns a guttersnipe into a lady.

As Eliza, Kidder fails to make the transformation believable. Among other things, her elocution, which is vital to the role, is inconsistent. Even the character of Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's endearing reprobate father, never reaches its potential in the hands of Donald (Alfie) Ewer. The most damaging aspect of the production, however, is that this Higgins and Eliza never demonstrate any recognizable emotion as they fall in love despite themselves. This time around Eliza might as well marry her silly suitor Freddy and damn Higgins altogether. Showtime has scored many hits with its theatrical productions staged for television, but this one only brings down the batting average. (Check local listings for subsequent dates)

WEDNESDAY, JULY 13

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