Actress Stefanie Powers was really busy in the mid-‘80s, having completed not one, not two, but three miniseries between 1984 and 1985. One of which was the TV adaptation of Judith Michael’s best-seller DECEPTIONS. Indeed, aside from co-starring in the then-very popular HART TO HART on ABC, Miss Powers went on to star in this tale of twin sisters, one rich, one middle class (married with kids), who foolishly change places for one week. Of course their little scheme ends up spelling double trouble as one of them (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) gets murdered and the other one is left with… DECEPTIONS (Yes, you could say I’m channeling its then TV promo).
This miniseries came just after the hype surrounding LACE. So it’s easy to imagine that the bigwigs at NBC had high hopes for DECEPTIONS. It was a two-parter, filled with glamorous locations, beautiful people (among them the recluse Gina Lollobrigida making a special appearance), and a tight-woven plot that had its share of suspense. SCRUPLES alum Barry Bostwick even co-starred, playing the dissatisfied hubby professor who wants to save his failing marriage, unbeknownst to the fact that rich Powers has now overtaken her sister’s place. On the other side of the continent, suave Fabio Testi (!) is head over heals in love with rich Powers who—surprise!—is really middle-class Powers (following me?). Both sisters are having a ball fooling everyone, but a little more so middle class Powers who’s liberatingly strutting her derrière with Testi (!) and friends to the rhythm of I'M SO EXCITED by the Pointer Sisters on a yacht on the Mediterranean just before (AGAIN, BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) the boat explodes into million pieces. Kaboom!
That, in a nutshell, is the first part of DECEPTIONS. I remember vividly getting caught up into the skim of things and anticipating on what was to happen next. I had never heard of the novel before so to me, everything was new and unblemished. Like LACE's Shirley Conran, here was an author (or should I say authors, since it’s a husband and wife team behind the Judith Michael name) who, despite the seen there done that theme of the book, had managed to churn out a complete involving story. Oh, how I wanted DECEPTIONS to be a huge hit. It certainly deserved it. And I figured we needed more of the same since it was so damn fun losing ourselves into the lives of the rich and famous. Heck, hadn’t-president Reagan confirmed this many times over during his eight year reign?
(MAJOR SPOILERS SO ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK) The second part is all about discovering who is behind the murder. Because, yes, dear readers, middle class Powers disguised as rich Powers has not been targeted for nothing. Someone was out to get her and we discover who it is. In parallel, rich Powers admits being who she really is to professor Bostwick, who frankly does not care since he now has his mojo back (only in movies, people, only in movies). All this is shown in a melodramatic but highly effective direction by the double handle of Robert Chenault and Melville Shavelson (a lot of pairings for this miniseries, huh).
Now, is DECEPTIONS in the same league as LACE? To that I say: no way, Jose. But it does have enough class and determination to hail it as one of the better miniseries adapted onscreen. One major thing was missing, though: ratings. Yes, as much fun DECEPTIONS was, the overall TV share for both nights was well… a deception. It barely managed to get half the ratings of LACE, which is not bad in itself but still a major disappointment in TV revenues. And probably because of that alone, whatever plans there were to adapt other Judith Michael books (and there are many to choose from) have been shelved to never ever land.