'E.A.R.T.H. Force' crashes with a dull thud

September 14, 1990|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

If you saw "Uncle Buck" this week and thought you were not going to see a more crackpot new show this fall, wait until you see "E.A.R.T.H. Force" at 9 Sunday night on WBAL-TV (Channel 11).

This is a very old movie formula that television adapted about 10,000 years ago: A team of super experts is rounded up to deal with a crisis, which they solve. They then decide to stay together as a team going from crisis to crisis. They also become a surrogate family -- living, loving and fighting with each other.

It worked with "Mission Impossible," and the uniforms should probably have been retired when the first version of that show went off the air. The formula has also yielded such milestones of American culture as "The A-Team" and "Young Wizards of Science."

"E.A.R.T.H. Force" deals with environmental crises. In Sunday's two-hour (yes, two hours -- it started feeling padded during the opening credits) premiere the crisis is the threat of a nuclear meltdown. Two kilos of plutonium were stolen from a nuclear reactor. To cover the heist, a virus was introduced into the reactor computers, and now the reactor is headed for meltdown. The crisis is further complicated by ...

Look, I can't go on with these knuckleheaded details. You get the idea. It's the kind of show where one character actually says (while looking at a temperature readout, "It's getting warm. I hope that team [of experts] gets here fast."

The team includes Gil Gerard as Dr. John Harding, a superstar emergency trauma doctor who becomes the head of the team. There's also Clayton Rohner as Carl Adler, a young, hot-headed nuclear physicist with a thousand Ph.D.s who has sacrificed his academic career to fight environmental wrongs. There's also ...

I can't go on. I must go on: There's also a guy who has only about 500 Ph.D.s and lives with a tribe of aborigines and uses a bolo to stop crooks, a mercenary who flies around in a helicopter painted like a zebra, and a woman who is always in a swimsuit. The woman in the swimsuit loves fish -- as living things, not for dinner. She's beautiful by the standards of prime-time television. The idea at CBS is that she will become a permanent fixture in the fantasies of lots of high school boys who are thinking about studying oceanography. For the record, the actress' name is Tiffany Lamb.

Also for the record, this is the worst show of the new fall season.

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