"Tourist," a new two-hour TV movie syndicated under the Operation Prime Time banner, is first-class B-matter all the way; it's popcorn in a Gucci bag, and foolishly enjoyable summertime pulp. Channel 20 will show it at 8 tonight.
Essentially a "Love Boat" imitation, "Tourist" tells four preposterous stories in as many european locations -- London, Amsterdam, Rome and Paris. sThe location shooting is a great asset, even if the scenery is only glimpsed and the cameraman more concerned with getting in plugs for companies that helped defray production costs.
There are at least five generous visual plugs each of Pan Am, Hilton Hotels and American Express. You've got to hand it -- something -- to a producer (David Lawrence) and a director (Jeremy Summers) who can make sure the American Express tour bus is in the foreground and Notre Dame cathedral stays safely in the background.
Definitely and deliciously the ripest tale involving the passengers on a luxury package tour is the first, with Bradford Dillman as a dithering journalist being ferociously fought over by Lee Meriwether as his wife and Lois Nettleton as his ex-mistress, who sneaks along on the tour and is discovered by the wife as the 747 is taking off.
The still-beautiful Meriwether, who turns in one heckuva hysterical performance, immediately demands that the plane be turned around and returned home, and when the tour guides politely decline, she growls, "Are you calling me unreasonable???"
Both women can thank writer Norman Hudis for some choice idiotic dialogue and for scenes that are the pot-boiler equivalent of pie fights. Meriwether gets to break into tears or fury at regular intervals, and Nettleton's predatory obsessiveness never lapses into anything milder than wild erotic frenzy. "I know what I want and I go for it, because life is short, and the struggle is ruthless -- and exciting!" she gushes while at the Bunch of Grapes pub.
After that, the tour gets tamer David Groh and Adrienne Barbeau play a husband and wife who have to shed a hot 200 grand in Amsterdam. This worries Groh and leads to a priceless exchange.
Groh: "I just don't think making love is a good idea right now."
Barbeau: "You never said that to me before -- not even during the earthquake!"
In Rome ("the eternal city!" says the narrator) James Stephens as a simpering seminarian almost forsakes his vows to dally with Bonnie Bedelia as an entrancing American expatriate, but in a cute twist, he is saved for the church. And in Paris, the father of a tour guide is kidnapped, but this becomes a farce when athletes in drag board a houseboat to rescue him.
"Your Tour Guides" are John McCook and Laurette Spang-McCook, she a direct clone of Lauren Tewes on "Love Boat" and he looking and sounding more like an anchorman than an actor. He has less emotive power than Tom Brokaw, and when an old French hag acclaims him as "a man, a man like they used to make," you wonder which Bordeaux she's been sampling.
Nevertheless -- had wonderful time, wished you were there.