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TELEVISION & RADIO | TUNED IN

VH1 puts TV formulas under its funny lens

October 24, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

You don't see many "evil twin" plot lines on television series these days, but for 30 glorious minutes tonight at 11, "VH1's Super Secret TV Formulas" takes you back to the golden age. There's Linda Evans cat-fighting her double on "Dynasty." There's "Knight Rider's" KITT car going grill to grill with a menacingly matching model. And leave it to the classic edition of "Star Trek" to take the concept sky-high with an episode that featured just about the entire cast chasing their evil look-alikes all over the ship.

The twins business is only one of the highlights of this supremely silly new VH1 series, which each week will poke fun at time-honored TV conventions from just about every angle. Offering some snipingly good commentary from the sidelines are a smattering of comics and sitcom veterans, including Jim J. Bullock, Bernie Kopell and Barry Williams.

The tendency of series to deliver "very special" (meaning very serious-minded) episodes during sweeps months also gets skewered tonight, with some choice clips from the "Family Ties" episode featuring Alex (Michael J. Fox) getting strung out on diet pills, of all things. This one is more curious than funny, although Fox's industrial-strength emoting during his descent into junkiedom does veer close to the latter. It's almost as convincing a metamorphosis as his transformation in "Teen Wolf."

Due to the constrictions of its half-hour length, "Super Secret TV Formulas" moves at a frantic hit-and-run pace, yet it frames its targets too well to be labeled hit-and-miss. When the show isn't marveling at producer Steven Bochco's ability to go from the top-drawer drama "NYPD Blue" to the jaw-droppingly misguided "Cop Rock," it's producing quickie lists such as "Best Mustache on TV." For the record, Bea Arthur finished third. Yeah, this is that kind of show.

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