The story behind dueling advice columnists makes for a
paper-thin biopic, Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story, due on Lifetime
The most interesting facet of the telefilm is the dual
roles played by Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me). With the help of computer wizardry,
Malick plays many scenes against her own image. It's fascinating to watch for the flaws in
the trickery for a while, but both Wendies get tiresome eventually.
It's also a bit hard to follow. Malick is Esther Friedman,
also known as Eppie, also known as Esther Lederer, also known as Ann Landers. She's also
Pauline Friedman, also known as PoPo, also known as Pauline Phillips, also known as Abby
Van Buren. Only the helmet hair versus the shellacked Bozo flip will clue you to the
The actress is not doing an impression: In interviews, she
said she found the Friedman sisters' Midwestern lisps annoying. She opts instead for her
own vocal mannerisms. As a result, you don't get much of a sense of personality other than
that of the actress.
The story introduces the sisters in their teen years and
takes viewers through their bounces between affection and rejection of their twinship.
Esther at first comes off as a "me, too," quickly
finding a fiance after Pauline finds a rich beau. But Esther actually finds her true love,
flirting with the clerk in the bridal shop. Their courtship doesn't delay their double
Esther chafes at her lack of individuality and her boredom
with domesticity. She attempts to gain a job in the Democratic Party machine, but instead
bulldozes her way into the Ann Landers title and job, even after insulting the editor
who's secretly been using the pen name.
Happy with her new role but buried in back mail, Esther
calls Pauline to help with the backlog. Of course, Pauline realizes she loves the advice
game, too, and convinces a West Coast paper to offer her a similar gig.
So the feud begins, carried out in a circumspect,
circulation-war kind of way, rather than a hair-pulling catfight.
Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story debuts on
Lifetime July 19 at 9 p.m.