Cable rolls out the greasers and rebels


August 26, 1994|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

Last season, Fox presented a telemovie pilot for a proposed series called "M.A.N.T.I.S.," starring Carl Lumbly as a paraplegic who invents and wears an exoskeleton suit that enables him to walk and gives him super-strength. The series based on that premise premieres tonight -- with a new supporting cast. It's worth watching on its own merits, and also because there's nothing else new and interesting on broadcast TV tonight.

* "M.A.N.T.I.S." (8-9 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- One change in this series that not everyone may welcome is its reduction in the number of African-American cast members. The telemovie was densely populated with black characters, but this series reduces the number of prominent minority players to two: Lumbly as scientist/superhero Miles Hawkins, and new cast member Galyn Gorg as an inquisitive police lieutenant. Also new are Roger Rees (of "Cheers" and "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby") as Hawkins' scientist sidekick, and Christopher Gartin "a free-wheeling, Generation-X bike courier." Reaching out for a wider demographic audience? No question. "M.A.N.T.I.S." was fine the way it was, but it's fine this way, too, and it's silly to fault a show's racial balance when it has a black superhero at its center. Fox.

* "Picket Fences." (10-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Adam Arkin, who spent most of last season guest-starring on quality TV series, notched this "Picket Fences" appearance as an attorney understandably exasperated by Wambaugh (Fyvush Finkel). CBS.


* "American Graffiti." (8:05-10:20 p.m., TBS) -- Every decade, there are one or two movies containing an unusually large gathering of future stars. In the '70s, this 1973 movie was one of the biggest, with everyone ranging from Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Suzanne Somers to director George Lucas.

* "Live Fast, Die Young." (9-10:30 p.m., AMC) -- There's a little overlap here, but the contrast is too good to pass up. If you have cable, you can start with this 1958 teen-angst movie, starring future "Mannix" Mike Connors as a mixed-up kid . . .

* "Shake, Rattle and Rock." (10-11:30 p.m., SHO) -- . . . Then dive over to this 1994 Showtime telemovie, which is a brand-new remake of that very type of "B" movie. Compare and contrast.

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