What’s next, “Harding and Kerrigan Meet the Menendez Brothers”?
By sharply criticizing itself for existing, “Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story” is television’s first movie in years to have its own out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, that in no way enhances the experience of watching it.
It’s rewarding to hear NBC publicly acknowledge within the movie that the movie it is showing tonight is not only cynical and utterly rubbish but also exploitative of both Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.
“They’re victims of us,” proclaims Dennis Boutsikaris as “the writer” who is depicted in the movie as being the hack whom NBC has chosen to write the movie--and grind it out ahead of a planned ABC version and in time for the present ratings sweeps period.
The theory here, as mockingly expressed by the Boutsikaris character, is that admitting you’re being bad makes being bad OK: “So that’s when the network decided it had to be a movie. Ah! Networks. There was going to be more than one. See, everybody was chasing after Nancy’s rights. And tabloids were driving the story every day, and it was like the whole world had gone crazy.”
Including itself, NBC wants you to know. An NBC executive in the movie salivates at what lies ahead for the May sweeps: “Nancy vs. Tonya: Beauty and the Bitch.”
True to that spirit, Kerrigan (Heather Langenkamp) gets clubbed and thereafter is never seen without her blinding halo. In fact, she’s rarely seen at all. On the other hand, the ever-present Harding (Alexandra Powers) is self-pitying and hard-boiled while being driven to behave badly by her then-husband, the allegedly jealous, wife-battering Jeff Gillooly (James Wilder).
The movie uses a “Rashomon” technique to let viewers decide for themselves whether she did (his version) or didn’t (her version) know in advance of the plot to cripple Kerrigan at the national figure skating championships in Detroit.
The actual writer of tonight’s movie, Philip Penningroth, could skate across this thin ice blindfolded, and has, witness his previous quickie scripts for “In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco” and “Amy Fisher: My Story.”
Ridiculing Gillooly, Shawn Eckhardt (Dan Schneider) and their fellow conspirators as clowns, Penningroth and director Larry Shaw try for some of the dark comedy deployed in HBO’s Emmy-winning docu-parody “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom.”
Instead, “Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story” turns out to be just another dull movie about dull people. After squandering two hours on it, you may be asking: “Why me? Why anyone?”
* “Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story” airs at 8 tonight on NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39).