Plot twists fail to hide 'Antagonists' flaws

March 26, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

CBS describes its newest series, "The Antagonists," as a "mystery/drama."

OK. As a mystery, it's not bad. As a drama, it's not much. In fact, the series, which premieres at 9:30 tonight on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), is very tired stuff in the dramatic realm.

What we have here are two attorneys, one male and one female, one a prosecutor and one a defense attorney. They bicker, they battle, there's sexual tension between them. Their battles in court can be read as a kind of courtship or, maybe, foreplay.

Let's see, does that make them the 998th and 999th attorneys on prime time television this year, or the 999th and one thousandth? And, is this the 999th version of bickering male-female attorneys since Hepburn and Tracy in "Adam's Rib" or the one thousandth?

Oh, yeah, the other deal is that we are supposed to see the same events first through his eyes, then through her eyes, and be struck by the differences in perception. Didn't Kevin Bacon just bomb big-time in that same premise at the movies?

In tonight's pilot, hotshot defense attorney Jack Scarlett (David Andrews) takes on what he thinks is a simple case of drunken driving. He usually doesn't handle such small stuff, but the woman accused is a friend of his law partner. He's doing it as a favor.

But the case turns out to involve murder when spunky, wet-behind-the-ears assistant district attorney Kate Ward (Lauren Holly) recognizes the jewels found in the woman's car as those taken in a homicide.

From there on, the plot takes some clever twists, as both Scarlett and Ward try to put together their cases. To prove guilt or innocence, they first have to solve the mystery of who killed the owner of the jewels. On this level, "The Antagonists" works.

But, in almost every other respect, it is strictly case dismissed.

Andrews' Scarlett is mainly obnoxious. Holly's Kate Ward does not come off as the professionally-together-but-emotionally-vulnerable woman she is supposed to be for this show to work. The producers try to paper over a multitude of problems with heavy atmosphere created by visuals borrowed from "Miami Vice" and every courtroom drama you have seen in the last two years.

Maybe part of the reason this series seems so bad is that there are so many lawyer shows on the air. Whatever the case, "The Antagonists" is one tort over the line.

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