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HOWARD ROSENBERG / TELEVISION

Babes and Bad Guys: A Weekend of New Shows

September 26, 1997|HOWARD ROSENBERG

ABC tonight gets touched by a "Teen Angel" and "You Wish," two new sitcoms that are about as sorry as TV gets.

Coming Saturday, meanwhile, are the same network's "C-16," a sometimes pleasing but generic action drama about swell-looking FBI agents chasing bad guys, and "Total Security," a look-alike, sound-alike private-eye drama that tries unsuccessfully to fuse heavy material with clownishness.

And on Sunday, MTV rage Jenny McCarthy and a pal invade Hollywood in NBC's so-so buddy comedy, "Jenny."

As a group, they're not much to cheer.

The "You Wish"-"Teen Angel" supernatural tandem is especially witless and artless, the former a neo "I Dream of Jeannie" about the not very high jinks of a maverick genie whose incessant wisecracks appear to be about the same age as the rug he was rolled up in for 2,000 years.

John Ales is the genie (described tonight as "a rogue . . . , a scoundrel, a disgrace to his profession") and Harley Jane Kozak is the single mother who inadvertently liberates him from rugdom and winds up having him around the house as a sort of nanny for her two kids.

The genie inevitably deploys his tricks on behalf of his new family, but there are no laughs anywhere, no chemistry between Ales and Kozak, and definitely no magic.

Roll him back up? You wish.

*

One moribund comedy leads to another. That would be "Teen Angel," the center of which is a winged Ferris Bueller whose jokes don't fly. Comedically, he's an angel of dearth.

Mike Damus is Marty, a teen beamed to heaven after a fatal encounter with a bad hamburger, and then assigned to be the guardian angel of his hapless best friend, the very mortal Steve (Corbin Allred).

Rebellious Marty is supposed to be under the control of a divine cranium residing in heaven, but no way. He can walk through walls and is invisible to all but Steve, making him the perfect vehicle for such non-angelic mischief as creating havoc among the kids at school he didn't like.

Credit "Teen Angel" at least with going for topical satire (including having heaven include a Starbucks, "because they're everywhere"). But Damus seems ill-matched to the material, and the touch that executive producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss displayed in "The Simpsons," and to a lesser extent in "The Critic," abandons them here.

*

"C-16"--now there's a show title assured of attracting viewers.

No, it's not about playing bingo, but a series following one of those elite law-enforcement squads assigned to cases NO ONE ELSE IS SMART OR TOUGH ENOUGH TO SOLVE.

However derivative, the premise does yield arresting work by the ever-interesting Eric Roberts as John Olansky, FBI agent in charge of the Criminal Division's 16th Squad, which handles the Los Angeles office's most major, most terrifying, most you-name-it cases.

In the premiere, that means trying to determine whether the abduction of a local prosecutor's young son is related to her caseload or to a bitter custody battle. It's pretty thin. Along the way, "C-16" also peeks at some of the back stories involving Olansky's team, played by D. B. Sweeney, Morris Chestnut, Christine Tucci, Angie Harmon and Zach Grenier.

Meanwhile, Olansky is at his preachy and sanctimonious worst when weighing in on an agent's domestic problems, a conflict between two other agents is stock stuff, and the C-16 team does a lot of glamorously running around to pounding, pulsating music, conveying a heroism that will surely gratify the real FBI.

Yet this is nice, solid entertainment with enough edge to hold your interest. Some suspense, some action, some emotion and some great-looking agent babes. What else is there?

*

If ever a series had both fine production values and the makings of a tired replica, it's "Total Security," which finds James Remar as Frank Cisco, a former cop now heading his own upscale security firm, and James Belushi as his buffoonish, unethical, corner-cutting operative, Steve Wegman.

Bill Bochtrup plays the office manager, Flex plays a street operative, and staff females are played by Tracey Needham and Debrah Farentino, whose cop husband here is a self-destructive alcoholic who looks about ready to check out.

Wearing its origins like a neon sign on Times Square, "Total Security" is another series from the production house of Steven Bochco. And it shows, from its sober, fearless, unflappable lead character to its general look and setting to its interwoven Mike Post theme that's nearly identical to that of Bochco's defunct "Murder One." In fact, "Murder One" is what this series most resembles, even though it's not nearly as good.

The odd card is Wegman, whose raging testosterone and general roguishness are played for broad laughs and are clumsily flip-flopped Saturday with a grim case centering on a missing little girl and her distraught parents. The mix doesn't work.

Remar is persuasive as Cisco, as are Farentino and Needham in their roles. But haven't we seen them all before?

*

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