Picks and Pans Review: Lucy

updated 05/12/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Sun., May 4, 8 p.m. ET)

Lucille Ball may have been a superb physical comedian and one of the most significant women in the history of the television—may have been? was—but in her personal life she doesn't seem to have suffered the whipsaw reversals of fortune or catastrophic breakings of heart that make for a juicy TV movie. Even after her acrimonious 1960 divorce from lover, business partner and I Love Lucy costar Desi Arnaz, she and the ex "remained friends for the rest of their lives," or so this limp dramatization tells us. The real Lucille Ball saga is more one of hard work and diligence, leading her from near failure as a B-player for the major studios to a producer with a studio all her own. Not surprising, then, that Lucy comes fully to life only when detailing how Ball, with advice from Buster Keaton, perfected the slapstick comedy that made her TV career.

York, better known as a Broadway performer, is good at mimicking Ball's on-camera antics, but the physical resemblance is weak: Even with her head topped with Ball's trademark red mop, York has a distinctively angular face and a strong slash of a mouth. You get the strange, blurry impression of Joan Crawford playing Lucille Ball—or maybe even Faye Dunaway playing Crawford playing Ball. As Desi, Danny Pino (The Shield) has the easier role, but he does well enough by it: It's a smooth, relaxed performance.

This whole three-hour shebang appears to have been shot on a budget of about $270, which doesn't do much for verisimilitude.

BOTTOM LINE: Waaaaaah!

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