It’s not Masterpiece Theater material, but Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution is the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines drama that the networks gobble up. It’s a blank TV movie based on Frey’s vacant memoir inspired by the media spectacle of the Scott Peterson extravaganza, which distracted Americans from the mass violence in Iraq and instead focused our national empathy on the Madonna-and-fetus tableau of Laci and Connor Peterson. The legacy of this prurient fascination with the Peterson family lives on in last year’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act—known as Laci and Connor’s Law—which for the first time recognized a fetus as a person in federal legislation.
I always liked Janel Malloy in The West Wing, and she fits the Frey role physically: blonde and toothy, her face a little too slab-like to be really beautiful. She’s the kind of heroine frequently seen in Lifetime TV movies, a victim of circumstance with the pluck to do the right thing. A sharper woman might have spotted Peterson’s slickness (on their first blind date, he lures her to his hotel room before dinner and plies her with champagne he happens to have in his carry-on bag) or duplicity (he neglects to give her his home phone or address). But Frey apparently dumps the blame at heaven’s gate; when she starts getting suspicious, she goes to church and puts in a prayer request “for God to open my eyes and ears,” which leads her to testify against Peterson. Like the ghostwritten book this was based on, Witness for the Prosecution is meant to cement Frey’s legacy—not as a homewrecker but as a homespun everywoman who just happens to fall for the wrong guy. She performs the ultimate extreme makeover on adultery, transforming herself into a tabloid saint.