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TV REVIEWS : 'An Untrue Story' Can't Sustain Its Satirical Humor

The New Season

September 20, 1993|RAY LOYND

A subject just waiting to be poked, punctured and parodied is the ripped-from-the-headlines, network movie-of-the-week genre.

Of the four networks, leave it to Fox to produce "Based on an Untrue Story" (at 8 tonight on Channels 11 and 6).

The biggest eye-opener is Morgan Fairchild, starring in what ranks as a surprisingly self-mocking comedic departure for an actress so associated with silken chic. She plays a powerful Beverly Hills perfume executive who loses her sense of smell and requires an olfactory nerve transplant to correct a rare disorder of anosmia.

Fairchild portrays it just straight enough to respectably hold her own with such co-stars as Dyan Cannon, Harvey Korman and Robert Goulet (the latter unexpectedly amusing as a philandering fop of a husband).

In fact, Fairchild's performance and the whole show suggest Shelley Long's TV elitist in last week's Showtime satire, "Sex, Shock and Censorship in the '90s." By extension, these two TV comedies echo such old industry sendups as the '70s theatrical movies "Tunnel-vision" and "The Groove Tube."

But, like those films, "Untrue Story" is also a hit-and-miss affair. That's because the writer, George McGrath (dramatized briefly as a knife-wielding sexual intruder who threatens Fairchild in her shower), can't sustain the humor. The material winds up an uneven blitzkrieg that only points up the difficulty of maintaining the arc of satire over the length of a full-blown movie.

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