Fox's pretty good 'Luck'

September 15, 1995|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,New York Daily News

Last season, Fox tried to establish a successful companion piece to "The X-Files" on Friday nights by preceding it with "VR.5," an ambitious series about someone whose unusual talents and often dangerous dilemmas eventually are linked to a long-dormant childhood tragedy.

Though that series was a total success in creative terms, it didn't maintain the audience levels Fox was after, so this season, beginning tonight, "The X-Files" has a new lead-in at 8 p.m.

It's called "Strange Luck," and it's an ambitious series about someone whose unusual talents and often dangerous dilemmas eventually are linked to a long-dormant childhood trauma.

Here we go again. And, once again, the trip, regardless of how long it lasts, looks like a lot of fun.

"Strange Luck" stars D. B. Sweeney, who played one of the roving cowboys on the original "Lonesome Dove." Here he plays Chance Harper, a newspaper photojournalist who always ends up with great photos because wherever he goes, trouble follows -- or vice versa.

The difference is that in Chance's case, his rather simple "super power" is an abundance of luck: sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always unusual. He has enough faith in his luck to use lottery tickets to finance each day's meager meal at the local diner, but too much fear of it to win big and finance a plush lifestyle.

When Angie (Frances Fisher), the waitress and friend, asks Chance why he doesn't go for the big-money lottery jackpot, Chance smiles and says, "It's not good to push your luck, Anj."

Yet in other ways, that's just what Chance does. When a woman is about to kill herself by jumping off a building, he jumps with her.

"Strange Luck" is built on the most improbable coincidences. They drive the show, and quite cleverly. What would be narrative flaws in any other form are, in this show, not only justifiable, but necessary.

In tonight's pilot episode, Chance is dispatched to get the photo of a local politician being booked at police headquarters -- a front-page photo opportunity. By the time the night is over, Chance also has jumper's-eye views of a suicide attempt and exclusive shots of a police shootout and a multialarm fire. That's four front-page photos, pretty much on the same roll.

Whether this series will itself get on a roll is questionable; this is one unlucky time slot.

But "Strange Luck," coincidentally, is a very enjoyable show, and Mr. Sweeney is as unusual and likable as the series itself.

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