'Broken Badges' just another silly 'A-Team'


November 23, 1990|By Michael Hill

Stephen Cannell turns out so many series that you can't blame him for repeating himself now and again, but if he's going to rip off his past, why not give us a reprise of "The Rockford Files" or "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe" instead of another "A-Team."

That's what you get Saturday night on CBS when "Broken Badges" premieres with a two-hour pilot that will be on Channel 11 (WBAL) at 8 o'clock. It's a bunch of wild and crazy types who careen slightly out of control as they right wrongs and dispense justice, mixing in some mirth with the mayhem.

Miguel Ferrer, Jose's boy who's so good playing sleazes -- tough-talking forensic specialist Albert on "Twin Peaks," the political backstabber district attorney on "Shannon's Deal" -- doesn't get to do that in his first series.

Instead, he stars in this one as a Cajun version of "Crocodile Dundee," a smart-mouthed country bumpkin who comes to the big burg where, inevitably, his rural ways set the cynical city slickers straight.

To do this, he latches onto an intellectual who is the police chief's pet (Terry Donahue) as his sponsor and, in an idea only Hollywood could dream up, gets her to round him up a team of cops on psychiatric leave as his cohorts.

They include a depressed, kleptomaniac, shell-shocked crime-scene specialist who has to assume the persona of a Texas Ranger to do his job (Ernie Hudson of "Ghostbusters" fame), a ventriloquist with a steel plate in his head (Jay Johnson of "Soap") and a leather-clad, cycle-riding, tattoo-sporting adrenalin freak woman (Eileen Davidson). We meet them all as they make mincemeat of the department's shrink.

Naturally enough, as they go about their task in the premiere -- the one-hour versions will run Saturdays at 9 p.m. -- the attributes of the various club members come in handy, particularly that metal plate in the head.

The plot, which involves clearing a man wrongly accused of murdering his father, is perfunctory. Instead, you're supposed to be charmed by this crazed collection of characters.

Hardly. You're going to be turned off by this conglomeration of contrivance with its unsettling combination of cartoonish violence and sophomoric humor. Cannell even includes a few in-jokes: The buffoonish psychiatrist is played by Richard Riehle, who plays the buffoonish principal on NBC's "Ferris Bueller," and the straight-laced Chief Sterling is played by another "Twin Peaks" veteran, Don S. Davis, the straight-laced military dad of Bobby Briggs.

At the end of the pilot, Chief Sterling says that the unit has a six-month trial period. It would be surprising if "Broken Badges" lasts that long considering CBS pulled the plug on production of its Saturday night running mate -- Cannell's infinitely superior "Wiseguy" -- as soon as the new incarnation flatlined in the ratings. "Broken Badges" could be DOA.

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