Picks and Pans Review: Master of the Game

updated 02/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sunday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m. ET)

A recipe: Take one commodity (oil, perfume, fashion or, in this case, diamonds), four generations, three continents and three nights. Simmer with sex, sleaze, greed. Overcook it, and you have a plot-boiler, otherwise known as a miniseries. Tasty it's not. Master of the Game, based on Sidney Sheldon's saga-novel, is a masterpiece of nothing but complication. The plot: Generation One—Ian (Chariots of Fire) Charleson sails from Scotland to South Africa, discovers diamonds, gets ripped off by Donald Pleasence (a wonderful actor wasted), gets rich again, begets Dyan Cannon. Generation Two—Dyan builds an empire, marries David Birney, who mercifully dies quickly, and has a son ("Always remember," Mom advises, "winning is everything"). Generation Three—Dyan's son, Harry (Studs Lonigan) Hamlin, finds out that his mom ruined his art career, ruined his love life and caused his wife's death during childbirth. So he shoots Dyan. He ends up in a mental institution. She, unfortunately, survives. Generation Four—Harry's twin red-headed daughters, both played with wonderful Dallasesque bitchiness by Juilliard-trained Liane Langland, battle for the empire. The evil daughter hires her evil lover to kill the nice daughter, but the evil daughter kills the evil lover instead. And all the time, Dyan grows wrinkles. She does not wear them well. Cannon is a gifted comic actress (in Heaven Can Wait, for instance), but judging from a rough-cut preview of the nine-hour series, she is miscast here. She is unconvincing, even laughable, when she tries to act the simpering beauty in love or the catty corporate killer or the doddering dowager. She tries too hard with material that doesn't deserve the effort. Your move.

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