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Four talented female actresses prove there are still good roles for women in TNT's "Running Mates."

A Winning Ticket


There's one scene in TNT's "Running Mates" that makes it worthwhile sitting through the whole movie.

Picture a posh, peach-colored, candlelit powder room in a fabulous Hollywood mansion during the 2000 Democratic convention. Four powerful and savvy women — a presidential candidate's wife, his campaign manager, a Hollywood fund-raiser and the wife of the candidate's mentor — dish some dirt, talk some trash and read some beads in a scene that will have you laughing out loud with pure delight. These are women who use words as weapons and are girded for battle. They take no prisoners, and nobody cares much about who gets hurt along the way.

Who says there are no good roles for women? You can't prove it when Laura Linney (the campaign manager), Nancy Travis (the candidate's wife), Teri Hatcher (the Hollywood fund-raiser) and Faye Dunaway (the mentor's wife) get parts like these — as juicy as an expertly grilled hunk of rare porterhouse steak.

And it doesn't hurt that the writer, Claudia Salter, is a woman, and that Albert S. Ruddy and Gerald Rafshoon are the executive producers. Salter began writing "Running Mates" while working with Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. Ruddy is the Academy Award-winning producer of "The Godfather" and "The Longest Yard," and Rafshoon, who won an Emmy for TNT's "Joseph," also knows a little about how politics work: He was media director for Jimmy Carter's campaigns and served as director of communications for Carter's White House. The film is directed by Ron Lagomarsino, who also directed "Driving Miss Daisy" on the New York stage.

The plot isn't all that imaginative, but the combination of the four juicy women's roles and the insider touches on how politics work combine to make "Running Mates" a shade better than your run-of-the-mill two hours of vegging out in front of the tube.

The premise sounds a lot like real life in some respects. A Michigan governor (Tom Selleck) has his party's nomination sewn up, so the attention now is on who he'll pick to run with him. Will it be the candidate supported by the money men and the party's old guard, or will it be the candidate who favors campaign finance reform? Two of the four women want it to be the reformer, the third wants it to be her husband, and the governor's wife doesn't care who he picks as long as he leaves their daughter out of the spotlight.

The ending — which follows the send-up in the powder room — is in keeping with the Hollywood tradition of the 1930s and '40s. You can see it coming a mile away, although you wouldn't want it any other way.

But that scene in the powder room is made for the Naughty Oughties, and it's a

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