Public television has a real classy miniseries in "The Jewel in the Crown." But it's a little bit stuffy, too starched, too Brrrrrrritish, not enough snap.
So I was wondering what would have happened if "The Jewel in the Crown," which chronicles fading British rule in India from 1942 to 1947, had not been made by England's musty Granada Television. What if the producer, Christopher Morahan, instead had brought the project to a real showman.
The conversation might have gone something like this:
Spelling: Love the concept. Love the energy. This will prove to my critics that I can be serious and thoughtful. Just a few changes, though.
Spelling: Don't worry, they're all minor. You think we're animals? You think we have no integrity? We're dealing with living history here, India's independence, the legacy of Gandhi. I'm personally very moved by this story.
Morahan: I'm relieved.
Spelling: The title will have to be changed, though.
Spelling: To "Finder of Lost Jewels."
Morahan: But. . . .
Spelling: Trust me on this. Wait till you hear about the cast: Morgan Fairchild as Daphne Manners, Morgan Brittany as Susan Layton, O. J. Simpson as Hari Kumar and Soupy Sales as Ronald Merrick.
Morahan: Soupy who?
Spelling: Sales. You'll love him. A real funny guy. Trust me. It'll work. We need to lighten this up. Wait till you see Soupy in those funny-looking short pants that Merrick wears. And when he gets hit in the face with a pie. . . .
Morahan: Maybe you've missed the point.
Spelling: Everyone knows I'm a sensitive guy. I wouldn't trash this. I want pathos, not just jokes. And I even want Omar Sharif too. We'll put him on an elephant. I want lots of elephants. And that little kid in "Webster," Emmanuel Lewis. We'll put him in a little swami suit with a turban.
Morahan: I don't know.
Spelling: I'm telling you, don't worry. The locale is the elegant Bibighar Gardens Hotel, a place of romance, adventure, excitement and intrigue, a place that is host to all people--including nymphos and strippers--and every emotion. It's a dream palace for some, not so for others, a place where love can be won as well as shattered. I see lust. I see greed. I see ratings.
Morahan: We may be changing the story a little bit too. . . .
Spelling: But for the better. I want glamour and beauty. I'll put Daphne in a Rolls and dress her in furs and jewels and. . . .
Morahan: But Daphne is plain!
Spelling: Right. Then she takes off her glasses and becomes Morgan Fairchild.
Morahan: Aren't we omitting India from the story?
Spelling: No, no! That's the beauty. Keeping watch over the Bibighar Gardens Hotel is O. J. as the handsome and consummately charming hotel manager Hari Kumar, a bit of a maverick who, although courteously demanding, exudes a personal warmth. The little kid from "Webster" is his assistant, Topo.
Morahan: But O. J. isn't Indian.
Spelling: The story is so fascinating that it won't matter. Y'see, Daphne, a privileged English girl, is vacationing at the Bibighar Gardens, where she falls in love with Hari. One night, they put her emerald tiara in the hotel vault for safekeeping. But when she retrieves it, she discovers that a jewel is missing. Despite Daphne's protests, Hari is falsely accused of the theft by Merrick, a private eye on loan to the British police in India from Matt Houston.
Morahan: Matt who?
Spelling: Never mind. The high jinks begin when Capt. Merrill Stubing docks the Love Boat in Mayapore and refuses to let Morgan Brittany off unless Merrick frees Kumar.
Morahan: There's no port there.
Spelling: We'll fake it. Besides, no one will notice after Hari Kumar claims to be Blake's brother.
Spelling: From "Dynasty." Y'see, the Carringtons and T. J. Hooker are guests of the Laytons at Rose Cottage, where Hari comes to confront Blake. When Merrick tries to arrest Hari there, he slips on a banana peel. Then Topo reveals that he's Merrick's brother and hits him in the face with a cream pie. It's a scream.
Morahan: But. . . .
Spelling: Then everyone returns to the Love Boat, where Hari and Daphne are married and Capt. Stubing is best man.
Morahan: This makes no sense.
Spelling: Yes, isn't it wonderful? That's the mystery of India.