NBC’s “Double Standard,” airing tonight at 9 p.m. on Channels 4, 36 and 39, tippy-toes into the illusory world of bigamy.
Robert Foxworth (“Falcon Crest”) plays Leonard Harik--loving father and husband, respected lawyer, soon to be a circuit judge--who weds his secretary/mistress in a bogus ceremony after the birth of their illegitimate daughter. He does this because “anything else would be morally wrong.”
For the next several years, Harik divides his time between two Missouri towns, playing husband and father to two separate families. He has three boys with wife No. 1 (Pamela Bellwood, formerly of “Dynasty”) and seven children by wife No. 2 (Michele Greene of “L.A Law”).
His double life ends only when his daughter’s tragic death becomes a media event.
Foxworth gives an unshaded performance of a man serene in his wisdom--a sort of bigamist “Father Knows Best"--and Robert Thompson’s teleplay supplies no real insights into why Harik’s vision of his world is so skewed.
Foxworth also falls victim to director (and executive producer) Louis Rudolph’s penchant for excruciatingly banal closeups that make sure viewers don’t miss Harik’s, gulp, meaningful hesitation when he’s about to lie.
Bellwood comes out best here, eschewing high drama to quietly underscore her anguish when she finally discovers the truth. Christianne Hirt and James Kee as two of the older children have a few good moments as well.
A more interesting film might have been to explore why wife No. 2, who knew from the beginning about family No. 1, was willing to live such a curtailed life. Greene’s version is of a rather simple, undereducated young woman whose acceptance of the situation borders on the bovine.
The film touts that it was “inspired by a true story.” “Inspired” isn’t quite the word that comes to mind after viewing this sudsy saga.