“In Defense of a Married Man,” A Made for TV Gem

Often the most prized, most nostalgic, films in this blog’s examination of made-for-TV greatness were films that aired a Movie Of The Week, before going (inevitably) to Lifetime. One such gem is 1990’s In Defense of A Married Man, available to stream on both Netflix and Amazon Prime. (It is assumed but not confirmed that Married Man has made its way to the Lifetime hall of fame.)

Like the classics that precluded and followed it, Married Man has popular stars of its day, an inconceivable plot, and has failed to age with time. Anyone new to this genre can rest assured that Married Man will perfectly represent the genre, down to its odd, jazz soundtrack.

Judith Light is a powerful attorney married to a louse of a husband, played by Michael Ontkean. Its hard to see the only nice character from Twin Peaks step out on the star of Who’s the Boss, and it’s 26 years since those shows were relevant. (Possibly even longer for Who’s the Boss.) Rounding out a who’s who cast are Cynthia Sikes (St. Elsewhere), the murdered sidepiece, a cop played by Pat Corley (Murphy Brown) and Jerry Orbach, a private investigator. As an additional bonus, a pre-Roseanne Johnny Galecki helps his mother catch the murderer! If ABC brought back the movie of the week (hear my prayers, ABC!), and it starred heavy hitters from Shondaland, it would be unfathomable.

Imagine a film about a woman defending her husband on the charges of murdering his lover: the lawyer-wife is Tracee Ellis Ross. Her husband is Nathan Fillion, the adulteress is Priyanka Chopra, the cop is Randall Park, the son is Atticus Shaffer, and the investigator is Clark Gregg. I can do it with all ABC shows, and without Shondaland and it’s still incredible. (Ross is the only choice for Light’s character, now and forever.)

The biggest benefit of Married Man is that it isn’t based on a true story. The viewer can submerge herself into the film and enjoy its accidental camp guilt-free. (The same can not be said for the next film in this series.) Thus, when it’s revealed that (spoiler) Orbach’s private investigator framed the husband, because he’s in love with his boss, it’s mind-boggling in the best way possible. The film was not praised for its quality at its release: Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+, while People “panned” the film with a B-.

They don’t make movies like this anymore. Luckily for us, streaming services are making more of these films available for auteurs of the low brow.

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