TV REVIEW : Soap Stars Go Prime Time on the 'Ledge'

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're looking for a subtle drama, stay clear of "Woman on the Ledge" (at 9 tonight on NBC, Channels 4, 36 and 39). With its three primary characters operating in a near constant state of emotional crisis, this movie possesses all of the exaggerated theatricality of a daytime soap opera.

Indeed, "Woman on the Ledge" seems to have been made primarily with the large and loyal soap audience in mind. The cast includes a bevy of daytime television actors, most of whom prove suitably adept at conveying the type of overly broad emotions required in such heavy-handed melodramas.

The story revolves around three lifelong women friends. Initially, each seems to lead a comfortable, rewarding life. Quinn (Deidre Hall of "Days of Our Lives") is a high-powered businesswoman. Rachel (Leslie Charleson of "General Hospital") is an upper-middle-class housewife. Steffi (Colleen Zenk Pinter of "As the World Turns") is a talented classical pianist.

Predictably, it doesn't take long for trouble to come crashing down on this idyllic setting. Advanced endometriosis threatens Quinn's ability to bear a child. Rachel begins to suspect her husband is having an affair. Steffi finds herself being manipulated by her unsavory therapist.

As with most soaps, "Woman on the Ledge" expends too much energy whipping up dramatic ways to make its protagonists miserable. Its producers may claim that they're tackling important, real-life issues, but with so much attention given to trauma and anxiety, very little room is left for thoughtful introspection, much less heady social examination.

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