A full year before James Cameron broke box office records, Robert Lieberman directed a TV miniseries about the Titanic. Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Peter Gallagher, Tim Curry, and George C. Scott, the film was aired in two parts in November 1996.The film follows three plots:
Isabella is returning to America after attending her aunt's funeral. On the trip, she meets Wynn, her ex-lover.
The Allison family and their new nurse, Alice Cleaver. Unlike the other two plots, this is based on real-life passengers. Unfortunately, even this fails in research, as Alice is portrayed as a mentally disturbed child killer.
Jamie, a down-on-his-luck pickpocket, sneaks aboard the Titanic after lifting a ticket from an immigrant. He meets a missionary family, and a crewman who is planning on robbing the First Class.
Anachronism Stew: Wynn says that soon people will be flying across the Atlantic in airplanes, which realistically no one would have believed in 1912.
Jamie describes to Aase a "moving picture" he saw once, though by 1912 moving pictures were nothing new.
Third Class had baths, not showers - rare in the UK at the time.
First class passengers are seen dancing the tango when in fact there was no dancing for first class passengers on Titanic and the tango was not even embraced by the upper classes until a few years later.
Thomas Andrews is completely absent from the events of the sinking, and his role is merged with Captain Smith. Chief Officer Henry Wilde, Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Sixth Officer James Moody are also omitted.
Isabella asks to switch rooms, but is told the ship is completely booked. Only half the rooms of First and Second Class were occupied.
Captain Smith chastises Ismay by telling him that they have "precisely the number of lifeboats required by the British Board of Trade." In actuality, Titanic carried four more boats than the law required for a ship of her size.
There was no press conference on board before the voyage. In addition, Smith's comment about "shipbuilding becoming such an art that any ship foundering is impossible" was made five years prior on the Adriatic.
The Astors and Molly Brown did not board the ship at Southampton, and instead boarded in France.
When the iceberg is sighted, Murdoch uses binoculars to get a better look at it. The binoculars on Titanic had been misplaced. Shortly before the ship set sail, Captain Smith brought Chief Wilde on board, thus demoting Murdoch and Lightoller, and forcing Second Officer David Blair out of the command roster. He accidentally took the keys to the locker where the binoculars were off the ship with him, and none of the other officers knew where they were. Given the state of optics in 1912, and that there was no moon, it is unlikely binoculars would have made a significant improvement.
It is implied that the Allisons' nanny is Alice Cleaver, the child killer. In fact she was a different woman.
As in many versions of the story, Bruce Ismay is shown to be desperate for the Titanic to break a speed record when he would have known that the White Star Line's ships could not match the Cunard's liners the Lusitania and the Mauretania for speed. Instead, the White Star Line aimed to beat the Cunard with greater size and luxury. Furthermore, arriving in New York a day early would not have earned him plaudits but the wrath of passengers whose hotel and travel arrangements were for the following day, not to mention irritating New York customs.
Captain Obvious: "All attempts to raise the Titanic have failed." No such attempt has or ever will be made.
Yes, there was the section of the hull they raised in 1996, but a tiny section is not the entire ship!
Heaven Seeker: The Jack family and their saved Scandinavian, Aase. Aase is so into God, she does not care about the "incredible new" moving pictures.
Heroic BSOD: Surprisingly, averted. Captain Smith, who by many accounts became distant and indecisive upon realizing the gravity of the situation, is remarkably coherent. He criticizes Murdoch on his handling of avoiding the iceberg like someone a century later would.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line who was savaged by the press for merely surviving the disaster is here portrayed to be a deranged speed obsessed lunatic, undermining the crew at every turn and even going as far heading down into the boiler room (something that could never happen in reality) and screaming at the stokers to light more boilers. Once Titanic hits the iceberg, Ismay is shown to be a sniveling, panicking idiot who snakes his way into one of the last lifeboats.
Laser-Guided Karma: Tim Curry tries to loot the first class staterooms during the sinking and gets into a lifeboat disguised as a woman. After a scuffle on the lifeboat following the sinking, he is hit by an oar, which breaks his neck and he falls into the ocean, with all the money he stole floating on the surface.
Love Triangle: Isabella with Wynn and her husband, Edward. Edward is not present for most of it, though.