UPN's 'Watcher' is short on clarity

January 17, 1995|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Sun Staff Writer

Publicity materials for "The Watcher" do not exaggerate when they brand the title figure of this new anthology series "an enigmatic character." But viewers will find a bigger enigma than that: What is this show all about?

Tonight's premiere episode on the new United Paramount Network (at 9 p.m. on WNUV, Channel 54, and WDCA, Channel 20) comes across as something you just dreamed but can't recall coherently upon awaking.

Imagine "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Fantasy Island" combined in a glittery Las Vegas setting and you get an idea of how several supernaturally tinged plots will come together every week in the desert oasis.

But what about that Watcher character?

Rap star Sir Mix-A-Lot plays the hefty enigma, who narrates the stories as he sits in a penthouse apartment scanning video screens able to access every security camera in every casino, hotel and, improbably, on the street and in private vehicles.

The Watcher moralizes, too, vaguely in the manner of Hitchcock himself -- no surprise, since producer/creator Christopher Crowe was executive producer of the 1985-88 revival of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

In the opening sequence tonight, the Watcher introduces himself as "your sky-high home boy" who says the stories he will share are all about "the biblical thing, the war between dark and light, right and wrong, good and evil."

In the first trio of tales, two young men from Texas find it's not good to cheat at craps, a hypnotist learns the peril in post-hypnotic gratification, and a young couple about to be married discovers lucky numbers work in mysterious ways.

The show invites a certain bizarre fascination, such as "Twin Peaks" or the current hot Fox series "The X-Files," and Las Vegas emerges on the colorful but sinister side.

But viewers should know that violent death climaxes two of the premiere's three plot lines. Also, coherence is not a common commodity.

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