Monday, May 02, 2005


Today marks the 41st birthday of the actress with one of the greatest genuine names in show biz: Mitzi Kapture.

Seriously — don't you wish your name had that kind of pizzazz?

Mitzi (born Mitzi Donahue, but married since 1982 to the improbably named Bradley Kapture) has enjoyed one of those something-for-everyone careers in television. For the employment-impaired, she's spent the last several years on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. For the hormonally hyperactive, she served a mercifully short one-season stint on Baywatch (I can only presume this was penance levied by the entertainment Powers That Be for having accepted the starring role in the third installment of a notorious series of hooker-turned-vigilante flicks, Angel III: The Final Chapter).

But for connoisseurs of great trash TV, Mitzi Kapture will always be remembered as Detective Sergeant Rita Lee Lance on the classic crime drama Silk Stalkings.

A brief word of explanation for those of you who spend all your televiewing time devouring nature documentaries on the Discovery Channel. Silk Stalkings was the most successful by-product — all right, the only successful by-product — of CBS' early-1990s experiment in late-night television called Crimetime After Primetime. After Pat Sajak's abortive post-news yakker tanked — and rightly so, I might add — CBS decided to counter-program Johnny Carson and Ted Koppel with low-budget crime dramas, most of which were produced north or south of the border, or offshore. Each weeknight brought a different program under the Crimetime After Primetime banner, though the turnover was high and certain nights burned through several short-run series before the entire affair was dumped with the arrival of David Letterman.

Some of the Crimetime shows were dreadful — softcore porn queen Shannon Tweed as the owner of a charter airline (Fly By Night); yet another tedious and preachy "crusading reporter" exercise (Urban Angel). Others were barely competent yet entertaining in their own uniquely cheesy fashion — the Magnum P.I. ripoff Sweating Bullets; the Continental spy drama The Exile. A few were genuinely creative — remind me to tell you about Dark Justice sometime, one of TV's all-time great hidden treasures. But only one series survived when Crimetime died, and that was Silk Stalkings, a quirky amalgam of Moonlighting and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit that lasted eight seasons on USA Network from 1991 to 1999 — leaving the air, ironically, at about the same time as Dick Wolf's similarly concepted but grittier L&O:SVU debuted on NBC.

On Silk (as the show is known to its legions of fans), Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes starred as a pair of police detectives in tony Palm Beach, Florida, whose specialty was solving kinky murders (the "silk stalkings" of the title). Rita Lance and Chris Lorenzo bantered and flirted constantly with each other (they called each other "Sam" after the golfer Sam Snead, known as "Slammin' Sammy" — and if I have to explain that metaphor to you in any greater detail, it's past your bedtime), in that way that told you the show would be doomed the day they consummated the relationship. (See? I told you it sounded like Moonlighting.) Which is exactly what happened, though the program soldiered on with other, lesser replacements for another three seasons after Estes and Kapture (in that order) departed.

Kapture did a fine job of portraying the grounded, level-headed counterbalance to her hot-headed male partner. (See? I told you it sounds like L&O:SVU.) In fact, she was the best feature of Silk, which was never the same after she left. Too bad she's mired in soapdom these days — she has the talent to carry a real series.

Now that the early seasons of Silk Stalkings are available on DVD, fans of pseudo-noir cop drama (or of Moonlighting or L&O:SVU) should check it out.

In the meantime...happy birthday, Sam.

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