If you harbor fond memories of the Academy Award-nominated film "My Life as a Dog"--that poignant, eccentric look at a small boy's life in 1950s Sweden--do yourself a favor and avoid tuning in to Showtime's new series of the same name, beginning Sunday.
Yes, Reidar Jonsson, upon whose book the film was based, helped develop the series for TV, and shares "creative executive" credit with Donna Matson-Jonsson. But the bland superficiality and forced quirkiness of the first three episodes are light-years away from the film's evocative quality.
The premise of the series is that 11-year-old Eric (Michael Yarmush) is sent to live with a young aunt and uncle (Jennifer Clement and Callum Keith Rennie) in a small Canadian fishing town after the death of his mother.
In the opener, Eric is convinced that bad luck, in the form of a "jinx dog," is following him, a phobia that is cleared up so quickly by the end of the half-hour that it leaves no emotional stamp.
We're also introduced to Auntie Auntie (Joy Coghill), an elderly woman destined to become pal and teacher of life lessons to Eric, and to Eric's future kid sidekicks, first tomboy AJ (Marley Otto) and then, in the second episode, Sam (Bucky Hill).
Facile, easily resolved plots and one-note performances leach interest--Otto and Hill are sullen in their roles; Coghill is twinkly wise and Clement is twinkly nice. Rennie's punkish Uncle Johnny is a scene-stealer, but isn't given much to do in the first shows.
Young Yarmush, meanwhile, projects such sturdy self-sufficiency that there are no vulnerable depths to plumb.
* "My Life as a Dog" premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on Showtime. The network has rated it TV-Y7 (designed for children aged 7 and above).