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TV Review

Fox Unleashes a Frightening but Inconsistent 'Brimstone'

October 23, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Following "The X-Files" and "Millennium," here's more Fox noir. Ever interested in the dark side, Fox has created in "Brimstone" TV's first bounty hunter from the big fiery pit operated by the devil.

But there should be a bounty on Fox for its revamped Friday lineup that now has the frightening "Brimstone"--whose first episode is about a pedophile, its second about a woman who sets her lovers on fire, literally--replacing two comedies at 8 p.m.

Talk about depraved scheduling. Maybe the devil made Fox do it.

In any case, it seems that 113 "of the most vile creatures who ever walked the Earth" have escaped from hell. Who better to track and recapture them than Ezekiel Stone (Peter Horton), a former cop and murderer himself who died in a shootout and was consigned to hell two months after killing in cold blood the man who raped his wife?

So the devil (John Glover) orders Ezekiel back to New York to begin stalking the 113, the first of whom turns out to be a twisted Catholic priest who killed a bunch of altar boys in 1896 and is now resuming his homicidal activities with a new set of young victims.

If Ezekiel fails? Yup, eternal fire. But if he completes his assignment, he'll be rewarded with redemption, to say nothing of a likely syndication deal.

The 113 number is no accident. Averaging one vile creature an episode will keep Ezekiel on the job almost exactly five seasons--an optimistic scenario for "Brimstone," perhaps, but one that would mean redemption for Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, who created this grim series in which the sun may not ever shine.

Although pretentious and overwrought, the premiere is somewhat intriguing, and Horton fits nicely as this guy who tonight forms an alliance with a living cop who doesn't mind working temporarily with someone who's dead. Go figure.

Watching this requires not only a suspension of disbelief, which is a given, but also turning your other cheek at the script's flaws and inconsistencies. Early in the story, for example, Ezekiel is about to zap No. 1 on his list when he's stopped by cops who get the drop on him, thinking he's the killer. Yet we learn later that Ezekiel can't be killed, meaning he could have taken out his target and thumbed his nose at the cops who had him in their sights.

And what kind of devil is this, anyway? It appears he wants the escapees returned so that he can stay on God's good side. A devil sucking up to God?

What in Hades?

*

* "Brimstone" premieres at 8 tonight on Fox. The network has rated it TV-14-V (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for violence).

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