Faltering first steps for 'Charlie Grace'

September 14, 1995|By R. D. Heldenfels | R. D. Heldenfels,Knight-Ridder News Service

Viewers should be allowed some reasonable doubts about "Charlie Grace."

The ABC series, which will premiere at 8 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2), is a sort of backhanded sequel to the early '90s series "Reasonable Doubts," which starred Mark Harmon as a police detective who worked with an assistant district attorney played by Marlee Matlin. In "Charlie Grace," Mr. Harmon is back as an ex-cop, now a private eye, and both series come from producer Robert Singer.

At first look, "Charlie Grace" is not quite in the same league as "Reasonable Doubts," an uneven but occasionally intriguing series. But "Grace" has gone down some weird production roads.

The pilot shown to the press earlier this year was very grim, with a startling twist in Charlie's professional and personal life. So Mr. Singer told reporters in July that "we're going to do a bit of a prequel to try to establish a tone that maybe is not quite as dark as the pilot ended up being."

What you'll see in the premiere episode is indeed that prequel (whimsically named "Take Me to the Pilot"), and it's not very good.

One of the story lines features an actress about to play a private eye who decides to follow Charlie around for research.

That's been done before, and much better, in movies and other television series.

In fact, both episodes of "Charlie Grace" seem to have drawn the main characters carefully but failed in giving them good stories to inhabit. Even the plot twist in the second episode will be evident to viewers well before Charlie figures it out.

And where an 8 p.m. series that includes the relationship between a detective and his 12-year-old daughter might sound like family fare, this is an adult show, as language and other content attest.

Not that this adult felt at all satisfied.

Two episodes were more than enough.

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