Ken Tucker
July 19, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Facts are fiddle-faddle to cable TV’s chief rip-off of Biography, Lifetime Television’s occasional series Intimate Portraits. Lifetime programs for women, so its portraits — which have ranged from Natalie Wood to Jessica Savitch (its two highest-rated episodes) — tend to be female. That’s not much of a range, actually; it’s primarily a bunch of entertainment-industry profiles, all of which emphasize the inspirational and bury the controversial (read: bland).

Portraits really works only when it yields up a show so adoring, so gaga over the subject it’s celebrating, that it spills over into campiness, as evidenced by the Wood edition. Here, among other warm remembrances, we had the evening’s host, Wood’s stepdaughter Katie Wagner, saying she’d been privileged to know her stepmom when Wagner was ”between the ages of 7 and 17” (ah, the knotty complications of showbiz family life!).

Whether extolling Wood’s ”passion for life,” Gloria Estefan’s determination to rise to schlock-pop stardom, or Debbie Reynolds’ determination to survive a marriage to Eddie Fisher, Intimate Portraits wants women to come away from the small screen glowing with freshly pumped self-esteem. For such video caressing, I guess us guys will just have to wait for Biography’s ”Men Who Felt Great About Themselves” theme week. C-

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