Really, now. Why are you even looking at this page, let alone viewing this miniseries, rather than watching the baseball playoffs on the other network?
On the assumption -- or hope -- that abundant numbers of viewers are not interested in the major league playoffs and that significant numbers of reader-viewers are infatuated with the work of Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel, NBC has done this week what it does best: It has counter-programmed, offering material as diverse as possible from another network's showcase offering.
So NBC, which held the TV-baseball franchise since around Abner Doubleday's time, now finds itself trying to steal viewers from the national pastime, pitting the miniseries adaptation of a pair of Collins bestsellers against the playoffs on CBS.
"Jackie Collins' Lucky/Chances" combines "Chances" and "Lucky," both of which revolve around the Santangelo family and its underworld empire. The series airs Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 9. (Steel's "Kaleidoscope" and "Fine Things" will air opposite the World Series.)
Collins, who felt battered by television's treatment of one of her other novels, serves as executive producer on this one, along with Susan Baerwald; and they, along with respected director Buzz Kulik, had to concur on important matters, such as casting. Collins also wrote the script.
The series is not "just kind of put together and thrown together with a lot of tired miniseries actors that you've seen in every other miniseries," said Collins.
The faces may be fresh to miniseries aficionados, but soap fans will find many of them familiar.
Vincent Irizarry, of "Santa Barbara," has the role of Gino Santangelo, who rises from fledgling wiseguy to Las Vegas empire builder.
Nicollette Sheridan of "Knots Landing" plays his daughter Lucky, who becomes wiser than Dad would like in the ways of her father. As the series opens, she is dreading his return from hiding out of the country, wondering whether he'll appreciate that she's run his business as well as he did.
"Lucky was born in the '50s," said Collins. "It's what happens when a girl wants to be just like daddy, as opposed to the boy of the family. And the strengths that she has, and the fact that Gino has this little chauvinistic streak that says a woman should be either a wife or a mother. Otherwise, she's a whore."
As befits the combining of two action-packed books by an author who knows how to make the pages sizzle, this story spans 40 years and is full of seduction, greed, seduction, corruption, seduction, conspiracy and, of course, seduction.
There's a raft of other characters: Michael Nader ("Dynasty") plays Enzio Bonnatti, a Gino colleague who turns on him; Anne-Marie Johnson ("In the Heat of the Night") plays a woman with a past who is the mother of Gino's son. Her son is played by Phil Morris.
Eric Braeden ("The Young and the Restless") plays Dimitri Stanislopolous, one of the world's richest men; Sandra Bullock, of NBC's short-lived "Working Girl," plays Lucky's mother. David McCallum plays a producer who comes, for a while, to the rescue of Johnson's character; Richard Anderson plays a man who encourages his wife, played by Mary Frann, to pursue her interest in other men. But more on Frann later. Actually, there's less on Frann.
With a few obvious exceptions, many of the cast members seem about the same age, even though they play each other's parents and children, older-younger spouses and the like. Look for a lot of makeup. Sheridan, for instance, uses a variety of wigs to look younger or older, and they are not her natural color. If she doesn't look quite the way you remember her from "Knots," you're not the only one who thinks so. An assistant director one day mistook her for an extra.
"Vincent was trying out for the role of Lucky's lover," recalled Collins, "and ended up playing her father." So, what's a generation's difference?
Collins, sister of "Dynasty's" Joan, clearly enjoyed pulling this series together. "I've written three movies before," she said, "but this is the first from my own work." Collins, who's been an executive producer before, too, was happy to have that responsibility and authority after her unhappiness over the TV production of "Hollywood Wives."
"Wives," she recalled, did fine in the ratings, "but I thought it lacked the heat of the book ... I thought they lost the humor. And I think that one of the reasons I have been successful for a long time -- and I've been writing for 20 years -- is the fact that my work has a lot of humor. And I think humor is very important.
"I was the creative consultant on 'Wives.' The only thing was, they never consulted me. They would send me notes about scenes that had already been shot. So with 'Lucky/Chances' I wanted to be involved all the way. I did not want to disappoint my readers."
She also wanted to keep the books' black characters black. One network, she said, was interested in "Lucky/Chances" but wanted it made with an all-white cast.
The $15 million that went into the six hours is rather visible in the sets and costumes. And, of course, there's a lot of sex, or suggestion of sex, in the series.
"There's an open sexuality we couldn't show a few years ago," said Collins. But she feels the audience will accept it in network prime-time fare. "It's done with style. There's a difference between doing it crass and cheap and doing it with style and making it look classy."
Take Mary Frann, for instance, with her strawberries and the melted chocolate. One of the young men she takes into her charge is the rising wiseguy Gino. She shows him the difference between seducing a woman and bedding one. Part of the difference, she instructs him, is a nicety like being fed berries dipped in chocolate.
"The scene with Frann and Vincent would have been frowned on years ago," said Collins. "We certainly couldn't have gotten away with the strawberry scene. It's very sensual."
It falls short of the overt sex and nudity found on cable, but for over-the-air fare, the limits have once again been tested.
And for Mary Frann, the bounds set by the role of the sedate Joanna of "Newhart" have been shattered. She wears a collection of gowns and negligees with necklines all the way down to here. The inn, New England and all those sweaters are a thing of the past.
When Frann's character offers Gino her personal instruction, he reminds her that she's married and "I don't play baseball on a full field." It's okay, she explains, because her husband is impotent. "So why don't you come over here and I'll show you how to do a lot more than just play baseball."
Which, of course, is NBC's proposition, too.