Prime Time, Joan Collins, 1988

The Other Collins Girl

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Back in the 1980’s, after decades of less-then-memorable or downright embarrassing movie roles, Joan Collins finally found –or was allowed into- a goldmine when she was cast as Alexis Many Surnames in Dynasty. Until then, quite many had not realised that she is a real life sister of Jackie Collins, one of the most best selling authors of all times. This offered a stellar marketing tool, so it was not a surprise when also Joan tried her hand in writing, publishing her first work of fiction, Prime Time in 1988.

It is not a surprise either that she did not wander far from her successful sister’s favoured genre, Hollywood’s ruthlessly competitive and morally bankrupt television and film world, or that she put an ample amount of her own life into the story. That said, the heroine of Prime Time is a wholesome and raven-haired British singer Chloe Carriere. Pushing forty, best days of her singing career behind her and her marriage to a fellow musician and duet partner Josh Brown in life support, Chloe seeks a much-coveted role of Miranda in a new big budget soap called “Saga”. And she wins, which does not sit well with the Tinsel Town’s vultures.

Considering how much ridiculed Joan Collins’ literary attempts were back then, it IS a surprise how competent her writing actually is. Admittedly she is telling about her own experiences in Dynasty, not shying away even from one of her characters HIV-scandal (R.I.P Rock Hudson), but even so, Prime Time is much more detailed and nuanced than anything Jackie Collins was churning out at the time, or since. Also, although her obvious alter ego Chloe does come across as goody-goody, Joan does not patronise the reader by providing them obvious heroes and villains, both equally unlikeable, like Jackie does. Joan does have her little sisters’ trademark, coarseness and raunch, but even then her take on sex comes across much more maturely than Jackie’s nubile 18-year olds approach.

It has been claimed that Joan Collins did not write Prime Time herself, which I am prone to believe in a light of her weak and uninspired follow-up, Love, Desire, Hate in 1991. It has also been said that it was Jackie who wrote this book, which in contrary does not make sense because why would she had made the effort to write a better book for her sister than one on her own. I think it’s apparent by now that Jackie Collins is not one of my favourite authors but I will review one of her books in near future.

NPG x126136; Jackie Collins; Joan Collins by Terry O'Neill
 

Sister, sister, oh so fair…

 

More Than Dreams, Pamela Bullard, 1987

Feministic TV-world Artefact from the Eighties

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Katherine “Kate” Marchand is a forty-something CEO of Boston-based TV-station WLYM. She wakes up 5am after her regular five hours sleep, brushes her teeth while computer inside her head switches to Work and Today’s Schedule-mode, which involves countless duties and tasks of being the CEO of America’s most prestigious TV-station. This is indicative of the tone of More Than Dreams, WLYM is not “one” of the most prestigious TV-stations in America, it’s THE most prestigious, elevated to that position by the iron fist of Kate Marchand. However, this is not a story of a high-strung career woman who learns that she has pursued things she never really wanted, no ma’am, author Pamela Bullard reveres her heroine and would not have her any other way.

Pamela Bullard has worked many years in television as a local reporter for ABC and news anchor for WGBH, she has also lecturer in Harward and Boston University and it’s hard to escape the impression that Kate Marchand is her would-be alter ego: Kate is the only female TV-station CEO in United States (the story is set to 1982), shelves in her office groan under the weight of Emmy’s and Peabody’s, her work ethics are second to none, she is pragmatic to the bone, intelligent, talented, capable, visionary, flawless. Her only human weakness is her emotional dependency on her latently unfaithful husband Jonathan who is a world-class neurosurgeon.

Obstacle of More Than Dreams is that despite the author’s own support and infatuation for her protagonist, the Ice Queen, boss-from-hell Kate Marchand makes a tough character to like. Bullard tries to soften her by revealing that she suffers a chronic back pain, due to grenade incident during her time as heroic war reporter in Vietnam.

In the beginning WLYMS’s eleven o’clock news have been second in ratings for two consecutive weeks, due to the female anchor having lost her sparkle, and because Kate does not tolerate one hiccup in her well-oiled machine, she sets out for new blood… face. So enter Kim Winston, a recently widowed and a mother of one, New York small time TV-reporter destined for bigger and better things. Kim comes to WLYM and quickly lifts the station even higher spheres, not just as a stellar news anchor but also with her uncompromising and earth-shaking special reports about state’s corrupted youth welfare system, human trafficking ring and ruthless drug lords.

Kate and Kim form a winning pair in business but also get as close to friends as  Kate allows herself to, they are drawn to each by their mutual intelligence, talent and stamina. One cannot help but feel a little left out as Kate treats most of the people she comes in contact with more or less thinly veiled contempt because they fail to meet her standards. But things go little pear-shaped when Kim falls into sack with Dr. Jonathan in what proves to be the weakest link of this otherwise decent novel. He makes the first move and Kim goes along with it because she has poured two bottles of Dom Perignon into herself and thinks that Jonathan is her late husband(!) Dr. Jonathan’s motives are left cloudy, surely even the most cheat-happy husband, especially one who is supposed to be so smart, would think twice before taking advantage of his wife’s best friend and employer.

Now, that betrayal is not the dramatic highlight of More Than Dreams, a good part of it is almost prosaic story of how committed Kate is to her work, albeit instead the Staten Island ferry, this Working Girl whisks to work in her Jaguar from her suburban mansion. There is also some gritty realism in Kim’s exposés and the end of book teeters towards action as Kim, Kate and WLYM end up to bad side of the Uzi-wielding drug dealers.

Written and published a decade before internet’s arrival, More Than Dreams offers a nostalgic view to the TV-world and news anchors, to time when people actually cared a great deal about who provided them their daily dose of doom and gloom. At one point Kate shuns cooking programs in favor of prime time soaps, deeming cooking shows passé. Hello, Mrs. Marchand, MasterChef, Come Dine With Me, The Taste etc. etc. called and said up yours.