Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The third of ABC's miniseries offerings, The French Atlantic Affair was an expensive but pulpish all-star version of the same-named Ernest Lehmann novel. Chad Everett essays the nominal leading role as Robbins-esque novelist Harold Columbine, one of dozens of wealthy, well-dressed passengers on a luxury ocean liner. Columbine's earlier, sympathetic articles on cult leader Craig Dunleavy (Telly Savalas) may well prove to be life-savers when Dunleavy and his henchmen take over the liner and hold its 3,000-plus celebrity passengers for a 70-million-dollar ransom (that translates to 13 tons of solid gold). The script contrives to include a lavish costume ball wherein most of the younger actresses appear in extremely revealing costumes. Although title designer Phil Norman won an Emmy award for his efforts, viewers and critics were generally cool to the charms of The French Atlantic Affair when the three-part melodrama aired on November 15, 16, and 18, 1979 -- probably because the miniseries' melodramatic convolutions were dwarfed by the real-life hostage drama then unfolding in Iran.