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Scattershot Premiere For 'Honor'

September 16, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Would you qualify as a cop or a crook on the two-hour, five-shooting, one-stabbing, six-slugging, four-corpse premiere of ABC's "Our Family Honor"?

Take this quiz.

Question: You're a male undercover cop working as a transvestite hooker when a fellow cop drives up to get some police information from you. When you get into his car, do you keep on your blond wig, thereby maintaining your cover?

Answer: No. If you're the undercover cop in "Our Family Honor" (Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), you take off your wig in the car, in view of other hookers on the street, jeopardizing your cover. But they don't see you because this is TV.

Q: You're a mob assassin attempting to murder a cop and a hooker who can implicate you in another murder. Do you sneak up and catch them by surprise? Do you ambush them?

A: No. If you are the mob doody in "Our Family Honor," you wait until your victims are together in a deserted garage and then shrewdly drive your car at them, shooting at them from a distance, out of the window of your speeding car, making sure the cop can identify you if you don't kill him (and of course you don't).

Q: You and your cop partner are on a crowded street when she spots a wanted armed robber 100 yards away. Do you sneak up and arrest the man before he can see you and make a run for it?

A: Don't be a fool. If you're Officer Ed Santini in "Our Family Honor," you stay where you are, draw your gun and shout, "Police, hold it!," shrewdly allowing the fugitive to draw his own gun and flee through the crowd so that your partner can chase him on foot until the script writer can think of something else to do.

Q: You're the cop the mob assassin wanted to kill. Now that you know where he is, do you sneak up and arrest him before he can shoot at you?

A: Only if you have an IQ of at least 60. If you're in "Our Family Honor," though, you cleverly stand 100 yards away and shout out the name of the killer, allowing him to produce a gun and fire at you.

And so on.

This is horrid, sloppy stuff, far below the usual work of director Robert Butler and far below what ABC had billed for this new series. The network has high hopes for "Our Family Honor," the most promising and most intelligent of its Dirty Half-Dozen crime series premiering this month.

It's the saga of two clashing family dynasties: McKays versus Danzigs, cops versus mobsters, good versus evil, threats versus threats, bullets versus bullets.

Five minutes into the show, the shooting starts.

This is a classic TV case of an intriguing premise run aground, the fusing of interesting conflicts and relationships with cliches and obnoxious violence.

The truest and most powerful scenes are Kenneth McMillan's as Police Chief Patrick McKay, the family patriarch--a tough, rigid, unsmiling stub of a man and one of the most arresting characters to arrive on TV in some time. His mobster counterpart is Vincent Danzig, played by Eli Wallach. Once boyhood friends, the two are now bitter enemies.

There is far more to the McKays than the Danzigs. The cop family is robust and well defined, the mob family gray and amorphous, having a German name and Godfatherish background music. When the Danzigs show up, the energy leaves. And so does the sympathy. Who really cares that Vincent gets heartburn because his gangster son, Augie (Michael Madsen), is such a mindless slug?

Tuesday's story begins with young Liz McKay (Daphne Ashbrook) becoming the latest family member to join the force and not knowing that her boyfriend (Michael Woods) is really the youngest Danzig. Meanwhile, Patrick is about to become the police commissioner, which steams the Danzigs so much that feeble-minded Augie augments a plan to smear McKay.

It's a dazzling plan. The Danzigs will kill a cop close to McKay's family and plant $10,000 on the body to make it seem that the cop was taking payoffs from the mob. If that sounds familiar, it's because the identical plot device was used on Sunday's rerun of the pilot of ABC's new "Lady Blue."

The Danzigs are merely dull. However, Patrick's eldest son, Det. Frank McKay (Tom Mason), is dangerous. He is the show's repulsive McKay, a seething hair-trigger who carries his blazing shotgun like a permanent extension of his right arm. He creates mayhem to end mayhem, commits crime to end crime. In real life, he'd probably be in jail himself, or blown away, but on this show his violence can be justified in TV terms and written off as heroism.

McKay is a metaphor for this season's self-mandated TV vigilantes who impose their own Ramboesque justice when they see fit.

Nah, you'd never qualify to be a cop or crook on this show.

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