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TELEVISION & RADIO | TELEVISION REVIEW

Like a `Runaway' from the old WB network

Call it `The Fugitive' for the postmodern world. Dad's obsessed, Mom's been known to lie, the kids are moody, and they're all on the run.

September 25, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

When first we meet them, the Hollands (not their real name) are new at this fugitive-ing. They're in a minivan, sister Hannah (Sarah Ramos) complaining about all the fast food they've been consuming while her older brother, Henry (Dustin Milligan), pines for the high school sweetheart he was so cruelly forced to abandon.

"Runaway" is "The Fugitive" with bathroom breaks and clandestine IM-ing, in which parents try to connect with their moody kids while everybody lives a lie. Here, Dr. Richard Kimble is an attorney father wrongly accused of murder who packs up the wife and kids and hits the road after the family receives death threats.

Road trip! CBS remade the 1963 series six years ago now, starring Tim Daly as Kimble; it flickered, then faded. Maybe he should have been seen carpooling. Or not -- "Runaway" begs your interest (who doesn't like a road trip story, even when the Feds aren't on your tail?) before fading for lack of energy, not to mention originality.

The Kimble figure is Donnie Wahlberg, whose expression throughout the pilot goes from sourpuss to sourpuss with a chance of clearing. I guess he's very tired. He spends much of the first hour on his Palm Pilot, trying to hack into the dead woman's e-mail.

In other words, he's just another dad too absorbed in his work to notice his daughter's off to school dressed like a hussy. The rest of the show gets the WB (oops, I mean the CW) treatment. You know, teen angst, high school crushes building.

In the pilot, the Hollands -- who are actually the Raders -- end up in the leafy hamlet of Bridgewater, Iowa, another of those WB planned communities. The neighbor has a really yellow sweater and the local Realtor dresses in knee-high leather boots. She rents them a rambling house worthy of an English professor and doesn't ask for references. Mom (Leslie Hope) gets pulled over for running a stop sign on her way to registering the kids for school; unable to produce ID, she contrives a plausible scenario -- they're Hurricane Katrina victims, you see; it's been four moves in the last year and, well.

In an America of heightened suspicion and identity theft, the Hollands get housing and schooling, and Dad gets a job slinging hash at the local diner, all without need of much paperwork. I guess they fit the stereotype -- white and outwardly (if not upwardly) mobile.

"Runaway" is one of only two new series on the merged CW (WB plus UPN, a partnership of Viacom Inc.-owned CBS Corp. and Warner Bros.). "Runaway" itself merges into the best-of-both-worlds lineup of "Smallville," "America's Next Top Model," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Veronica Mars." But don't get fooled by the letters -- "Runaway" may officially be CW, but it's all WB at heart.

Paul.Brownfield@latimes.com

*

`Runaway'

Where: The CW

When: 9 to 10 tonight

Rating: TV-14 DLV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)

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