About half way into "Bay Coven," what NBC is miscalling "a thriller about modern witchcraft," the central character remarks, "Someone's playing a very bad joke on us."
Indeed, a bad joke is being played--on the TV screen. And anyone foolish enough to still be watching this unintentionally hilarious highlight reel of scary-movie cliches and photographic gimmickry will get it (Sunday at 9 p.m. on Channels 4, 36 and 39).
Linda Lebon (ex-"Dynasty" star Pamela Sue Martin) is a yuppie lawyer with a yippy yuppie dog and a yuppie hubby Jerry (Tim Matheson). Jerry's lost the yuppie faith because he's discovered he has too many suits and not enough callouses, so the pair ditch their Boston yuppie loft for a timeless manse on remote Devlin Island.
The Devlin Islanders, including Beaver Cleaver's mom Barbara Billingsly as Beatrice, can't help it if they're all weirdos--they're witches who 300 years ago traded their souls to the Devil for immortality. But the extreme close-ups and the spooky backlighting that follows the witches around makes them look like sinister versions of Ernest P. Worrell, the goofy rubber-faced alter ego of comedian Jim Varney.