NBC blunders in where everyone has already exhaustingly trod with "Bare Essence," yet another glossy prime-time soap about the conniving and conjugating rich. This one, derived from a two-part CBS movie that aired last fall, comes up lacking on almost all counts. A better title would be "Bare Minimum."
In the two-hour premiere, at 9 tonight on Channel 4, Tyger Hayes (Genie Francis), that spunky young spitfire, marries Chase Marshall (Al Corley, once Steve Carrington of "Dynasty"), that sullen playboy, and they plan to make beautiful perfume together, via their new company. But, darn the luck--as David Letterman would say--because, after an arbitrary series of dithering preliminaries, Chase decides to enter just one more auto race in Monaco and life deals Tyger yet another nasty hand.
Comes soon the mysterious, and proverbial, Phone Call in the Night. "Zee death of your hoos-band, eet was not an accident," says the voice. "Chase was murdered . . . murdered . . . MURRR-DERRRED!!!"
Along the way there about five bedroom scenes (all listlessly plastic--this show needs more gratuitous sex and violence), a number of interlocking characters comparing one another's portfolios, and of course a resident Queen B, for Bitch, played campily by the glisteningly attractive Jessica Walter. Actually, the cast is well-stocked with formidable actresses. Jennifer O'Neill, looking well, plays Tyger's mother, the quietly pretty Wendy Fulton breathes life into someone called Muffin (breathing life into a Muffin is never easy), and Francis herself has a way of ferociously energizing scenes.
But writer-director Walter Grauman has given this talent little to do that isn't ridiculous on the face of it. "Bare Essence" is just another series of tiffs, intrigues and assignations among the allegedly well-to-do, none of whom really has much to do. Among those doing it are Ian McShane as a Greek gazillionaire, Jonathan Frakes as the nervous Marcus and an all-but-requisite pair of homosexuals, one of whom grandly announces, "Tim and I are lovers," at Tyger's wedding.
John Dehner, as the resident patriarch on the premises, totters around as if he just fell off the slowest Conestoga in the wagon train.
"I think I'll go outside and get some air," someone says in one of the opening scenes, as people in these sorts of things always say. The Greek comes home one night to find Walter baring gifts in his bed and before long they're between silk sheets and she's asking him about his "expansion plans." NBC already failed once in this genre, with "Flamingo Road"; a "Pink Flamingo Road" hardly seems in order. "Bare Essence" is murder, murder, murrr-derr.