When did Lindsay Wagner become just about the loveliest, nicest-seeming actress appearing semiregularly on television? I had to confront this late-blooming crush while watching the excessively foolish Danielle Steel’s Once in a Lifetime , two hours of treacle made enjoyable by Wagner. As Daphne Fields, a stand-in for Steel herself — that is, a wildly successful writer of potboilers — Wagner is utterly without irony or camp. She plays a corny part straightforwardly, even when required to wriggle beneath red silk sheets with Duncan Regehr (Zorro: The Legend Begins), who portrays a smirky, pretty-boy actor named Justin Wakefield.
Justin breaks Daphne’s heart by leaving her alone on Thanksgiving to go skiing with another woman, and our Daphne knows about heartbreak, having survived the death of her husband and little daughter in a fire. Now a lonely widow taking care of her deaf son, Daphne should, we viewers know, hook up with the dashing Dr. Matthew Dane, who heads her son’s school. He’s played by Barry Bostwick as a sensitive divorce (”I liked being married; I hate living alone”). It takes a while, but Daphne finally awakens to Matthew’s charms, except that then she — well, if you haven’t read the 1982 novel on which this is based, why spoil it? B