Recycling is supposed to be good for the environment, but in the case of "E.A.R.T.H. Force," it's just adding to the pollution in prime time.
This new CBS series, premiering Sunday night at 9 o'clock on Channel 11 (WBAL) before moving into its Saturday at 9 p.m. time slot, is a "Mission Impossible" update except that instead of having its heroes stopping nasty evil-doers trying to oppress the innocent, this team stops nasty evil-doers fouling our environment.
They've even managed to perform something of an environmental miracle and recycle Gil Gerard into the lead of the show, though, like so much recycled paper, he doesn't have that nice glossy sheen. Nice hair-dye job, though, Gil.
The Earth Alert Research Tactical Headquarters (don't lose too much sleep thinking about the fact that the guy who came up with the words to fit the acronym is some Hollywood producer making 20 times as much money as you do) force is a lean, mean, green machine, a high-tech Greenpeace, ready to follow every old formula in the book in order to turn the complexities of our global environmental problem into a simple heroes-and-villains story.
They are all top scientists and tough radicals who wouldn't sell out to the establishment except for top dollar -- a guaranteed 13-episode order. They'll fight and bicker, and probably smooch and kiss a little, too, as they go about their all-important missions, whipped into shape by the charisma (maybe it's a new toupee) of team leader Gerard playing trauma doctor John Harding.
Each member of the team has a special skill and all will be used in appropriate ways as they perform their sludge-busting feats. But that steal from "Mission Impossible" isn't the only thing you've seen before. Joanna Pacula is definitely the most attractive set dressing in the hour, playing the mysterious director of the Earth Alert foundation who hands out the team's assignment, as the voice of John Forsyth did for "Charlie's Angels." There's even a little "A-Team" in here.
Sunday night, they head into action to stop a nuclear meltdown everyone else thought was unstoppable, then catch the bad guys who caused it! One week, perhaps they'll stop everyone from driving cars in Los Angeles and solve the city's smog problem.
So maybe, despite its formula-filled, banal approach to the making of a TV series, "E.A.R.T.H. Force" deserves a modicum of credit for trying to dramatize this important issue in a way that even the fans of this milieu can significantly appreciate. At least in the new season, it doesn't get any worse than this -- good intentions gone bad.
* A band of maverick scientists go to work for a well-financefoundation as an environmental SWAT team, heading out to stop ecological disasters around the world.
CAST: Gil Gerard, Joanna Pacula
TIME: Sunday at 9 p.m. then Saturdays at 9 p.m.
CHANNEL: CBS Channel 11 (WBAL)