Picks and Pans Review: People Like Us

updated 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Sun., May 13, 9 P.M. ET)

D+

Based on Dominick Dunne's best-seller, this wretched miniseries stars Ben Gazzara as a writer determined to exact revenge on the sicko who murdered his daughter. Connie Sellecca is the millionaire's wife whose secret past makes her an accessory to Gazzara's quest. Actually, Sellecca's limited dramatic skills always make her something of an accessory, yet she turns in the best performance here, which gives you some idea of just how dim People Like Us is.

No one seems to be able to deliver this pulpy dialogue with any conviction. Ben Gazzara walks through every scene looking pained and acting grumpy, as if he has been summoned to the set in the middle of a nap.

Adding to the torpor is the sluggish pace and sloppy structure—as soon as the revenge motive is established, it's abandoned, and the story shifts from California to New York City as Gazzara becomes a chronicler of upper-crust Manhattan society. The wealthy milieu is so incredibly dull that it makes money look like a punishment.

More dreary performances are piled on, including Robert Desiderio as a philandering news anchor and singer-composer Paul Williams as a thinly disguised and completely defanged Truman Capote.

It's astounding that this vacuous enterprise could command two nights, but it does, concluding the following evening at the same time. Do not operate heavy farm machinery after watching this.

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