Somebody had better get the net

Preview: It must be a TV conspiracy. Even Tom Clancy couldn't come up with something this preachy, superficial and nutty alone.

February 01, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

The year is 2005, and the really bad guys are now doing their dirtiest work on the Internet. There are good and brave warriors working for Uncle Sam who are willing and able to stop them, even if it means death, but the civil liberties weenies with their Constitutional whining and the gutless politicians with their heads in the polls have the good guys hamstrung. If something isn't done and done now to stop this bleeding-heart madness, ready yourself for the apocalypse.

That's the latest Paranoid Gospel According to the Prophet Clancy, as preached -- and I do mean preachy-preachy preached -- in "Tom Clancy's Netforce," a four-hour ABC miniseries starting tonight.

Actually, we can't blame it all on Clancy. ABC is mainly using his name above the title the way NBC did last year on "Homer's The Odyssey." To network television, Homer, Clancy, it's all the same -- as long as they got enough game to draw an audience.

Clancy served as one of four executive producers for "Netforce," with Lionel Chetwynd writing the teleplay. But this wooden, one-dimensional miniseries is cookie-cutter Clancy in character, plot and vision (using the word in its most superficial sense).

At the center of the action is Alex Michaels, as deputy director of the FBI's Netforce. Michaels is a low-rent version of Jack Ryan, Clancy's big-screen hero. Michaels is played by Scott Bakula, a low-rent version of Harrison Ford, who plays Ryan.

Before you can say, "I trust in the Prophet and waive my civil rights," Michaels' beloved director (Kris Kristofferson) is lost in a fiery explosion staged by one of the bad guys, a Mafia boss. Michaels is devastated, but a hero's gotta do what a hero's gotta do when the bad guys are on the march. And, so, he takes over the agency, despite the sharks circling his office in the persons of a back-stabbing presidential aide (Brian Dennehy) and a which-way-is-the-wind-blowing FBI boss (CCH Pounder).

Is there a good woman to stand by Michaels' side? Of course there is. She's Toni Florelli (Joanna Going), and she's Michaels' top aide. Everybody keeps saying how smart she is, yet Michaels seems to have to explain everything to her at least twice. Maybe she's smart for a woman, in the world according to the Prophet Clancy.

The rest of Michaels' team of computer super-cops seems like something out of a Saturday morning kids' show -- a loyal black guy who serves as a bodyguard to Michaels and a hacker-nerd.

In addition to the Mafia boss, the bad guys' first team includes a Chinese-American don (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and a software computer mogul bent on taking over the world (Judge Reinhold). Yes, you are supposed to think Bill Gates when you see Reinhold on screen.

"Too many people think computer crime is still a game played by nerdy youngsters on a home computer. But the truth is a great deal different. Today's most cruel and ruthless criminals use the Net as their vehicle of choice," FBI Director Sandra Knight (Pounder) preaches tonight.

"Well said," says Netforce director Steven Day (Kristofferson), in case anyone was in a coma and missed her point.

And, so, is it writ (using the word in its most superficial sense) in the gospel according to the Prophet Clancy.

`Netforce'

When: Today and Thursday, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Where: ABC (WMAR, Channel 2)

Pub Date: 2/01/99

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