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Despite some great music, ABC-TV's Judy Garland miniseries never delivers a pot of gold. 

Over the Rainbow

The best thing about ABC-TV's "Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" is the same thing that was best about Garland herself: her music. The worst thing about the two-part miniseries is Judy Davis, who plays Garland (as an adult) as though she were channeling her through Faye Dunaway. That's not only bad, it's downright weird. Most of the time, Davis doesn't even come close to looking like Garland. Toward the end of Garland's story — during the era that's been dubbed "the concert years" — Davis manages to resemble Garland a bit, thanks to a more realistic hairdo and costumes that look as though they'd been snatched out of Garland's own closet. But there's still that disturbing trace of something in her voice that sounds more like Clyde's moll. "Me and My Shadows," based on a book by Lorna Luft, (Garland's daughter and Liza Minnelli's half-sister), starts off far better than it ends. Tammy Blanchard ("Guiding Light") plays Garland up through the "Wizard of Oz" years, and her resemblance to the legendary star, both visually and vocally, is uncanny. Blanchard and Marsha Mason (as Garland's mother) give substance to the years in which Garland first had "Property of MGM" figuratively stamped on her backside. Those were the years when, at Louis B. Mayer's behest, she was prescribed the uppers and downers that enabled the studio to extract more than its allotted pound of flesh, and that would bedevil Garland until her death at age 47. But when Davis takes over the role, the illusion begins to crumble. She just can't seem to manage the dual tasks of looking and acting like Garland simultaneously. She's clearly spent time studying Garland's films, concert performances and her ill-fated CBS-TV variety hour, but the speaking voice is wrong. Garland's spontaneous and emotional gestures (it seems Garland never quite knew what to do with her hands, which served only to emphasize her vulnerability) come off in Davis' interpretation as over-rehearsed and overwrought. Garland's many fans are in for a big disappointment. Except, that is, for the music. Which is awesome. Mainly because what they'll hear are recordings of the real Judy, to which Davis lip-syncs. Digitally remastered versions of Garland's songs, ranging from "You Made Me Love You" to "The Trolley Song," make the soundtrack for "Me and My Shadows" a cut above bearable. There's a moment at the end of part one, when Garland in her signature tramp costume sits on the edge of the stage at the Palace Theater and belts out a grown-up version of "Over the Rainbow," that almost makes the four-hour production worthwhile. But one lollapalooza of a song does not a TV movie make. Purists in the audience will notice that of all the music in the miniseries, only three songs are not remastered Garland originals. A vocal double was used for two of them, and Davis herself sings a third, acapella. Why? Because recordings of the three songs no longer exist. The script, too, rarely rises to the level of the talent of the woman whose life is being examined. But on at least one occasion, some of Garland's legendary wit shines through the treacle. It comes in one of the many scenes of Garland battling her addiction. "Judy, I'm begging you. I'm down on my knees," says husband Sid Luft. Garland's response: "Well, while you're down there, why don't you sing eight bars of 'Swanee.'" Garland fans will love that line, if nothing else.
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