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'Titans' of Titillation

October 01, 2000|WILLIAM KECK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One sexy "Dallas" siren. One taut "Baywatch" tart. A naughty "Melrose Place" scribe. And a generous spoonful of Aaron Spelling's "Dynasty." That's the randy recipe for NBC's "Titans," or as star Victoria Principal calls it, " 'The Brady Bunch' on acid."

Far more acidic than "Brady," "Titans" pays homage to the early '80s, when the dysfunctional families of "Dallas," "Dynasty," "Knots Landing" and "Falcon Crest" ruled not only oil companies and wineries--but Nielsen charts and National Enquirer covers.

Now, two decades and countless self-help books later, the disgustingly wealthy are seemingly more screwed up than ever--though still smartly dressed in gorgeous Nolan Miller creations.

As "Titans" unfolds, self-made Beverly Hills zillionaire Richard Williams (Perry King), founder of Williams Global Enterprises, is about to wed Heather ("Baywatch" vet Yasmine Bleeth), a sassy little vixen whose indiscriminate "generation gap" was previously filled by Richard's adopted son, Chandler.

Further complicating matters is Chandler's jealous (and smarmy) younger brother, Peter ("Central Park West's" John Barrowman) and Richard's ex-wife Gwen (Principal), who lives in the mansion across the street with her and Richard's grown-up (and equally combative) daughters Laurie (Josie Davis) and Jenny (Elizabeth Bogush). Meow!

"People like to laugh at rich people who have even more problems than they have," explains executive producer (and very rich person) Spelling. The Don King of prime-time soaps, Spelling has promoted some of television's most legendary catfights: "Dynasty's" Krystle and Alexis in the mud. "Melrose's" Jane and Sydney in the pool. Now with "Titans," it's the escalating rivalry between the ex and current Mrs. Williams that has Spelling salivating: "Having been married to the same man, each would like to see the other go to hell."

"This is a very relatable story among real rich people," says series creator Charles Pratt Jr., who steered "Melrose" during much of its run. "I mean let's face it, with a lot of these guys running companies, their ego takes over and they end up marrying a younger 'trophy' wife. With [Heather and Gwen], we have street-smarts versus country club smarts."

But don't expect any mudslinging this time around--at least not involving Principal, who made it perfectly clear from the get-go that the only mud she'd dip her hands in would be facial products from her Principal Secret skin-care line.

"I do not believe in physical violence," says the former "Dallas" star. "I went to Aaron and NBC upfront and said 'I will not smoke or drink alcohol on camera, I don't have unsafe sex and I don't have physical altercations with men or women.' And they were very respectful of my feelings."

Inspired by his actress' request, Pratt the writer is looking forward to penning a wicked war of words. "We're not going to get to the point where they're ripping each others' clothes off," insists Pratt. "It's more like how Noel Coward would do it--an intellectual battle of will. Part of the game here is to surprise the audience and take unexpected turns. We're starting the show with secrets we'll milk for all that they're worth."

One secret that's already out of the bag: King's character, a victim of NBC's push for a younger show, will be bumped off in episode four, replaced in the fifth installment by "Melrose" hunk Jack Wagner, who steps in as Richard's kid brother, Jack.

"NBC wanted to focus on the children--the trust-fund generation," explains Pratt. "And I bought into that completely. The idea of legacy and sibling rivalry is really what 'Titans' is all about."

*

"Titans" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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