Gather together enough bad actors and hand them a terrible enough script and, if you are very lucky, you will get as scrumptious and atrocious an entertainment as "The Seekers," latest of the John Jakes pseudo-historical "novels" to be turned into a four-hour Universal potboiler.
Channel 20 will show it tonight and tomorrow night at 9, and it is highly recommended to all devotees of the delectably overwrought."The Seekers" is a regular Kitsch Parade of groaners and howlers.
Most TV movies are B movies -- sometimes, the B'er the better -- and these Operation Prime Time costume parties are in the key of B all the way. Dramaturgy this turgid takes on a king of shameless, stupid charm, and the film never seems mean or sleazy the way network movies about hookers and psychos do.
The first rule of these Jakes things is, get the bosoms up front and, indeed, the opening tease is scarcely underway when Delta Burke as Elizabeth bends obligingly forward into the camera. It's uphill and downhill from there in a script (by Steve Hayes) of such riotous eventfulness that one certainly identifies with Sarah Rush in part two when she gasps, "We've just been through so much so fast."
And that's before she's been raped by a missionary, sold to a gang of trappers, and, finally, adopted by the Indians, at which point "The Seekers" turns into "The Searchers," the old John Ford Western. Orginiality is not the strong suit of this production. The strong suit of this production is Delta Burke's dress.
The combination of every actor you ever longed to avoid and fits of dialogue not to be believed this side of a Mississippi showboat makes "The Seeker" a wellspring of pure smug pleasure.
Randolph Mantooth as Abraham Kent to Burk as she smooches his finger in bed: "My God, Elizabeth! Do you know what you're doing?"
Martin Milner as Abraham's father after the lad announces plans to go West with his wife. "It's madness, absolute madness!"
Milner, a few cough-coughs later, as he lies dying in bed, and after having been told what the doctor thinks: "Doctors! What do they know?"
Mantooth, arriving home after a failed few years in the West, to the maid at his father's door: "Well don't just stand there goggling, woman!"
Mantooth a few scenes later, after his brother suggests to him that he join the Lewis and Clark Expedition and just before Mantooth reveals he has come down with "the pox": "Go out West??? With Lewis and Clark? Have you gone completely insane???"
Probably the most sublime exchanges occur in part two, when Mantooth's son, played by young Timothy P. Murphy, is propositioned in the Navy by the evil Lt. Stovall, played to a swish fare-thee-well by George Hamilton.
Murphy: "You do that to me again, and I'll cut your rotten face!"
Hamilton: "Why you fifthy little swine!"
"The Seekers" is a banana split, all right, but beware of those who say "they don't make them like that any more." They never made them like that, and just as well.