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TV REVIEW : 'Traps' Premiere: Strong Cast, Weak Plot

March 31, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

The cast is the most interesting element of "Traps," the CBS police series premiering tonight.

There's the exotic pairing of Academy Award winner George C. Scott and Dan Cortese--renowned for hosting "MTV Sports" and starring in Burger King commercials--as the two protagonists. There's Piper Laurie as the Alzheimer's-stricken wife of Joseph Trapchek, Scott's veteran supercop who returns from retirement to help with "high-profile" cases. That means working alongside his resistant grandson, Cortese's long-haired Det. Chris Trapchek. And there's Lindsay Crouse's recurring cameo as the tough police commander.

Scott, Laurie and Crouse are a lot of talent to cram into a weekly hour. Yet nearly everything else about this uninvolving Stephen J. Cannell cops-getting-in-touch-with-their-feelings series is routine.

An exception is a scene that finds a squinting Scott bending over and talking to a corpse ("What were you doing in a downtown ally, wearing old clothes?") while Cortese and others watch in apparent awe. It's unclear whether it's Cortese's character or Cortese himself who's dumbstruck, having never been around an actor quite like Scott before.

In any case, this is the kind of actor-homogenizing series that narrows the gap between the two performers, as grandfather Trapchek and grandson Trapchek tonight ultimately overcome their differences long enough to collaborate on pursuing the deadly "headlight killer." This low-beam mystery is eclipsed by the relentless verbalizing that comes from the script's heavy tilt toward relationships and sensitivity.

"All we got are the people who love us," Chris' regular partner, Jack Cloud (Bill Nunn), tells him. It's this kind of gritty cop talk that may motivate you to switch channels.

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