Less lurid than its title suggests, this made-for-TV movie was based on the true story of the trials and tribulations of three generations of New Orleans prostitutes. Ellen Burstyn stars as Tommie, matriarch of the "working girl" family which operates out of a brothel in an otherwise quiet, respectable neighborhood. Tommie is the domineering boss of her daughter Jeanette (Annabella Sciorra), who had followed in mom's footsteps (so to speak) because she had no alternative. Conversely, Jeannette's daughter Monica (Dominique Swain) is showing signs of rebellion, hoping to break free from her grandmother's grasp for the sake of her own daughter Navaeh. The family's internal squabbles are played against a backdrop of federal intrigue, as the FBI works overtime to nail Tommie and her family on charges of racketeering and drug trafficking. But just when it looks like the jig is up thanks to the testimony of a local doctor, Tommie saves herself by threatening to reveal a few unsavory secrets about a few highly placed male individuals. The real-life Jeannette Maier acted as the film's technical advisor, insisting in press releases that she and her mother ran a "clean, tight, business" and that the FBI's charges were so much applesauce (it is clear where the filmmakers' sympathies lie in those scenes wherein the Feds are shown wiretapping the ladies' business when they should be concentrating on capturing the terrorist perpetrators of 9/11). The Madam's Family debuted October 31, 2004 on CBS.
by Hal Erickson synopsis