White, Nielsen lift NBC's 'Chance' above expectations

It's riddled with improbabilities. Its tone careens between serious, adult comedy and campy send-up -- and never really figures out which way it wants to go. It uses stereotypes of gay men and Japanese executives, which some viewers will rightfully find offensive.

The verdict: "Chance of a Lifetime," which airs at 9 tonight on WMAR-TV (Channel 2) is a pretty good made-for-TV movie.


It's pretty good despite the flaws, because the broad strokes of the story are interesting and the casting of Betty White and Leslie Nielsen as lovers is almost inspired.

Early in the film, White's character, uptight businesswoman Evelyn Eglin, is told that she has a fatal disease with only six months to live.


One night in the depth of her depression, she sees a TV ad for a resort in Mexico, and decides to visit.

While at the resort, she meets Lloyd Dixon (Nielsen), a widowed surgeon. She resists his advances at first. But, contemplating her imminent death, she decides to throw her inhibitions to the wind. Before long, they are sailing, bungee jumping, singing "Blue Moon" and sleeping together.

Then, her doctor calls to tell her she doesn't have the disease after all. Now she has to deal with her life and the new relationship with Dixon, which takes up the rest of the film.

Along the way, there are some very strange scenes and characters. There's a woman at the resort who is very attracted to Dixon. She keeps saying she is Dutch, but she has an accent like someone from Transylvania in a bad horror film. There is also a scene where Eglin and Dixon are on balconies singing "Blue Moon." If it's not parody, it should be. There are lots of scenes like that. Of course, because of his film career, it's hard

to watch Nielsen without thinking parody.

But give the script big points for taking viewer expectations learned from innumerable disease-of-the-week movies and turning them inside out. And give it more points for White's winning ways. She makes her character someone you want to see find happiness. There are worse things than a little well-rewarded TV empathy on a Monday night in November.