NBC's `Titans': Without Principal, it's unprincipled

October 04, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

NBC is hyping "Titans," a new prime-time soap opera about a wealthy family, as a "guilty pleasure." I get the guilty part, but I'm still trying to find the pleasure.

"Titans" is one of the poster shows for the overall lack of imagination or quality in this year's lineup of new network series. It's Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent, a team with roots extending back to "The Love Boat," recycling material that would have been shopworn had "Titans" premiered in the fall of 1980 instead of 2000.

Really, Aaron, the well is dry on this glitzy but vacuous formula of clothes, money, power, cat fights and sex among the rich and richer. Move on.

I don't expect Dustin Hoffman doing "Death of a Salesman" when I sit down to a prime-time soap opera, but even by Spelling standards the acting is stunningly bad. Perry King plays Richard Williams, patriarch of the family that owns Williams Global Enterprises. King makes "Dynasty's" John Forsythe seem like John Gielgud.

Moving from hack to no-talent, the pilot centers on Richard Williams' impending marriage to a much younger woman played by Yasmine Bleeth, of "Baywatch" fame. Perhaps, I shouldn't say no-talent; she does have a knack for looking good wearing skimpy or no clothes. But that would be modeling not acting, wouldn't it?

The producers waste no time exploiting this talent; the very first image is her in bed with a young Navy pilot. Oh, and what a shock, the pilot - played by Casper Van Diem - is her fiance's son.

The NBC press release calls Bleeth's character, Heather, "deliciously wicked." That would take a lot more acting talent than Bleeth shows in the pilot. Her main move as an actor is to curl her top lip upward at the right corner in what on Elvis was a sexy almost-sneer. With Bleeth it looks more like a twitch.

Really, Yasmine, just stick with the skimpy clothes thing.

Let's see, we have hack and no-talent, what's left? Yes, wooden, that would be Casper Van Diem ("Starship Troopers"), whom everyone keeps referring to as the "prodigal son." But it wasn't like he rejected his family. He's a hotshot pilot in the Navy, sleeping with Yasmine Bleeth - until she leaves him for daddy that is. Van Diem is still working on clenching his jaw real hard to show tension -- lesson two in Acting 101 for pretty boys. Lesson one is working for at least an hour every day on your suntan.

Can I say anything nice?

Yes, Victoria Principal ("Dallas") - whom I have often mocked but shall forever more refer to as The Great Victoria Principal - is the one saving grace on the show. She plays the ex-wife of Richard Williams, living directly across the street from his mansion in a smaller but still fabulous Beverly Hills home. When Principal is on-screen, the series almost works. Compared to the others in "Titans," she seems like one of the Redgrave sisters."

Really, Victoria, I take back everything terrible I ever said about you. You're a giant.

Perhaps, the dumbest thing about "Titans," is that NBC scheduled it as the lead-in to "The West Wing." "Titans" is all cynicism and rich people behaving badly. "The West Wing" is all idealism and talented people committed to public service.

Somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of Burbank, pairing them up makes sense.

Titans

When: Tonight at 8.

Where: WBAL (Channel 11).

In brief: Would that it were the guilty pleasure NBC claims.

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