Pillbox

Loose story lines, shabby costuming, and mediocre acting

On specialized channels like Oxygen, ABC Family, and BET, the made-for-TV movie makes its comfortable home. Pop culture often mocks the “Lifetime movie” — rife with the same stories about abused women who fight back at the men who are oppressing, suppressing, and repressing them.

Made-for-TV movies are easy targets for criticism; after all, these films are typically low-budget, often starring B-list (or worse) actors who used to sell tabloids but now are lucky if they get any mention at all.

Take I Do... I Did as an example. This movie, released in August 2009 and aired on BET, is so undervalued that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

The cast of I Do... I Did includes Cherie Johnson, known primarily as Laura’s best friend on ABC’s Family Matters, and Shar Jackson, who played Neicy on UPN’s Moesha. The storyline was quick and the costumes shabby; it seemed as if the actresses and actors had chosen clothing from their own wardrobes.

The story follows the relationship between Marcus, played by Marcus Patrick, and Vivian, played by Johnson, who also wrote and produced the film. On the way to their honeymoon, the couple gets into a serious car accident. Vivian slips into a coma and is incapacitated for two years. Vivian’s best friend Candy, played by Jackson, comes to visit Vivian in the hospital every day, even after Vivian’s own husband stops visiting a year later.

When Vivian finally wakes up, Marcus has gotten remarried. Since Vivian’s family died while she was in the coma, Candy is now all she has. When Vivian finally leaves the hospital, she is forced to wear the wedding dress she was admitted to the ER wearing. The costuming is so bad that the blood on the dress still appears fresh.

Vivian is now forced to move into Marcus’ house with him and his new pregnant wife, Jenny, played by April Scott. At first, Jenny doesn’t seem to care that Vivian is there, but the tension starts to grow as Vivian attempts to show Marcus that this should be her life, not Jenny’s. Marcus now has to try to manage two wives under one roof.

This plot leaves serious issues for nearly any viewer, of course. Marcus was able to remarry without having to produce Vivian’s death certificate and, in the end, Marcus realized he is still in love with Vivian just in time, as luck would have it, for Jenny to fall into a coma.

But TV movies do more than just throw together poorly thought-out plots with barely remembered actors. In 2004, The Prince and Me premiered in theaters to mediocre reviews, although avid Julia Stiles and/or romantic comedy fans will likely list it among their favorites. In 2006, ABC Family took this relatively adorable movie and ran it through the sequel machinery to produce The Prince and Me II: The Royal Wedding. Luke Mably, as Prince Edvard, is the only cast member to return to this low-budget sequel.

In this second installment, moments before Edvard is to marry Paige and take up the throne as king, the Danish Parliament finds an old law requiring that the prince marry a woman of noble blood. As if on cue, Kirsten, a princess who was friends with Edvard when the two were little, comes to visit, and it just so happens that she wants to marry Edvard. He is only too happy to follow through with this plan, until Paige finds a loophole that lets her marry Edvard after all.

Even after the easily forgettable actors and barely memorable scenes were through, there came a third version (cleverly subtitled A Royal Honeymoon), this time shucking Mably in favor of unknown Chris Geere — an only slightly more unimpressive lookalike of Mably, who has yet to find another film to renew his relevance. Even IMDb cannot come up with a better plot synopsis than “King Edvard and Queen Paige set out on their honeymoon.”

What’s even more shocking is that a fourth one is on its way, titled The Prince & Me: The Elephant Adventure. Leave it to made-for-TV movies to wring out every cent of profit from an initially promising concept.