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Pam Grier, Florence Henderson and Donna Mills may draw viewers into this story centering around three congregation members who volunteer to support their church's day-care fund, by renovating a dilapidated property owned by their fellowship, while learning of concerns within their respective marriages.
Any comic relief runs cliché, as the ladies of the house know little, if anything, of carpentry, wiring or plumbing. While they insist upon no assistance from others, they rely upon the hardware store clerk for advice upon nails and things, and Pam takes a crash course in plumbing. Their minister is on hand to take calls, but does little in the way of acting or helping the story to advance in any way, shape or form, indicating that this is probably not the closest of fellowships, adding the fact that these three close friends know little about one another's secrets, if at all their own.
Richard Roundtree, Lance Henriksen and Gordon Thomson play the respective husbands of Miss Grier, Miss Henderson and Miss Mills. Hallmark productions require very little of the actor's talents save setting the stage for the actress to emote.
One may eagerly anticipate Richard's sizzling with Pam, Gordon's heating the screen with Donna, and Lance's encouraging Florence's comic relief, but these relationships suddenly hit the snags for one reason or another even though, Pam, no one else would feel exactly bored coming home to Richard Roundtree.
But Pam keeps apologizing to Richard for spending too much time fixing up the house for charity, without addressing exactly what the problem is between them. Florence and Lance launch into their very downbeat subplot involving terminal illness. And Donna questions her tolerating her wealthy Gordon's cheating on his mistress with his secretary, as Gordon Thomson characters very often do.
Add to the mix a "neighborhood watchdog," who spends his days lounging upon the tailgate of his pickup directly across the street from the charity residence. While the three ladies feel protected by his endeavors, he loses his cool with Donna for an innocent remark on her part, but confides to Pam that he comes from a family of dentists and did not want to go into the practice after college. Instead, he works nights to stand guard all day. And, oh yes, he's a "responsible" single father, who neglects the baby inside his place all day and all night, while he provides, pretty much the same way in which the ladies neglect their marriages.
Even though this screen story is greatly out of touch with these extremely difficult times of repossessions and poverty, the ladies continue to refurbish, before returning to their own opulent residences and shattering marriages. But their husbands continuously encourage these wives to carry on with their solo project, while each secretly enlists assistance from everyone except her husband.
One evening when Pam's character decides to shop at the hardware store, Richard asks her where she's heading. "To shop for supplies," she explains, causing him to accompany her, to scrutinize her activities. What he learns is that she actually drives to the hardware store to shop for supplies. The script very often walks away from potential excitement in a series of choppy scenes, as this.
This production may cause a viewer to reassess the notion of "average." On one hand, one may wonder why Pam Grier, Florence Henderson, Donna Mills or Richard Roundtree would sign onto an otherwise bland project as "Ladies of the House." But, on the other hand, they raise it to new levels, by possibly making this the first Hallmark production which viewers actually watch all the way through--if only to anticipate its stars reverting to their famously customary characters, as Gordon certainly does.
By comparison to other productions of its kind, a new definition of average springs to mind, and "Ladies of the House" rises above the norm to become salvaged by its star power.
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