CBS (Sun. and Tues., Nov. 9 and 11, 9 p.m. ET)

D+

I don't know what's going on here," an FBI agent says to the heroine, "but you've stepped in something—something big." Take warning, viewers, and don your hip boots. The plot of this miniseries, based on Follett's 1996 novel, is almost indescribable. Kelly McGillis stars as a biologist hoping to find a genetic basis for criminal behavior by studying twins who were raised separately. McGillis makes the mistake of falling for one of her research subjects, a law student (Jason Gedrick) accused of raping her lab technician (Lisa Vidal). Not only does this guy have a detestable twin (Gedrick) doing time for murder, he also turns out to have a kinky clone (Gedrick) who owns sex clubs and another kinky clone (Gedrick) who tries to rape McGillis while they fight for the steering wheel of a speeding car. Wait, there's more: Part 2 offers two Gedrick-vs.-Gedrick fistfights and climaxes with a scene featuring five Gedricks in one room.

Gedrick, Shmedrick. Is all this ludicrous enough to be fun? Yes, we admit. If the suspense doesn't keep you on the edge of your chair, it's because the dialogue will have you rolling on the floor. (McGillis, erroneously, to Gedrick: "There's only one explanation: There's four of you.") And Larry Hagman is at his oily best as a scientist who apparently inherited the gene for pointy eyebrows.

Lifetime (Mon., Nov. 10, 9 p.m. ET)

B-

As long as it stays focused on the principals—Blair Brown as the mother of a murder victim and Cameron Bancroft as the man convicted of the crime—this TV movie, based on fact, is deeply involving. In the nine years since he shot her son after a barroom altercation, Brown has adamantly opposed Bancroft's parole. Now she visits the killer in prison—planning to vent her rage for good and all—and gradually discovers he is not the monster she has made him out to be. The relationship evolves believably, as Bancroft haltingly voices remorse and Brown, to her astonishment, feels an impulse to forgive.

Unfortunately, the film is not equally credible in its depiction of Brown's family life. Her mother (Shirley Knight) is a one-dimensional battle-ax. Her adult sons (Robert Moloney, Bentley Mitchum, David Kaye and William De Vry) tend to express their emotions by shouting and shoving. Unseen and barely mentioned is her ex-husband, who presumably would have an opinion on whether Bancroft should remain behind bars. The efforts of Brown's best friend (Belinda Metz) to fix her up with a new love interest (Dale Wilson) only dilute the central drama.

ABC (Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

B

I wish you would stop assuming that everything is tied to my sexuality," Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres) said to a friend a few weeks ago, lodging perhaps the most disingenuous complaint in this sitcom's 3½-year history. If DeGeneres hadn't come out as a lesbian last spring and brought her character with her, Ellen's ebbing ratings might have led to a quiet death. Now everyone's talking about the show—from Al Gore (pro) to the Christian Coalition (con) to the star herself (threatening to quit because ABC warned viewers of an episode's "adult content"). What are the chances the buzz would last if Ellen Morgan went from the First Gay Lead Character on Series Television to a quick-witted, rather jittery woman in her 30s who just happened to be gay?

So sex will be Topic A. What has Ellen to say about it? Not a great deal that's new, judging from this season's early episodes. But the show has a sly self-awareness that effectively disarms those who would accuse it of merely putting a gay gloss on stock hetero situations. Just when we were ready to dismiss one outing as an uninspired reprise of Three's Company—a prospective housemate thinks Ellen has a ménage à trois going with cousin Spence (Jeremy Piven) and friend Paige (Joely Fisher)—the episode acknowledged its origins with a funny cameo by Three's Company landlord Norman Fell. At the moment, Ellen is working on a romantic relationship with her mortgage broker Laurie (Lisa Darr). If her life grows too full to fit Spence, Paige and squeaky-voiced friend Audrey (Clea Lewis)—well, worse things could happen.

HBO (Sat, Nov. 15, 8 p.m. ET)

B-

Despite a knockout lead performance by Ving Rhames (Rosewood)—a winner for characterization as well as impersonation—this portrait of the rapacious, outrageous fight promoter leaves us with one key question about Don King: Who cares? Based in part on a book by journalist Jack Newfield, the film documents King's criminal background (numbers racketeer; four years in prison for manslaughter) and gives a detailed accounting of his broken promises and financial misdeeds. We're told that even the top heavyweights were forced to deal with this scoundrel because of his monopoly power. But with the exception of a battered Muhammad Ali (Darius McCrary), too exhausted to press a lawsuit against King after losing to Larry Holmes, it's hard to muster much sympathy for the practitioners of this brutal excuse for a sport—maybe because we never get to know them as anything more than pieces on King's game board. When champion Holmes (Danny Johnson) huffs and puffs at King about being ripped off and notes that boxing is "the only jungle where the lions is afraid of the rats," our attitude is, So quit roaring and take a poke at the rodent.

>The Academy Group

THE REAL-LIFE MILLENNIUM SLEUTHS

FANS OF FOX'S FRIDAY NIGHT CREEP show Millennium know that when ex-FBI agent Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) helps local cops track down the fiend of the week, he gets backup from his friends in the Millennium Group, a secret network of retired G-men who offer their expertise. Eerily enough, such an agency does exist.

They're called the Academy Group, a Manassas, Virginia-based organization founded in 1989 and now headed by three former FBI agents—Peter Smerick, Richard Ault and Roy Hazel-wood—and an ex-Secret Service man, Ken Baker. They advise police forces, law firms and private corporations on everything from hostage negotiations to workplace violence. "I heard about them from an FBI contact," says executive producer Chris Carter (The X-Files), who solicited their input in 1996 while developing Millennium.

After screening the pilot, the former feds agreed to act as consultants. Among their key bits of advice: (1) Cut down on Frank Black's psychic visions of the killers. "We don't have visions," says Smerick, a 24-year FBI veteran. "However, you develop a tremendous sense of intuition." And (2) Allow Black to smile. "Frank retired because of job stress. I developed a heart problem, and the job's mental strain was part of it," says Smerick, who retired in 1994. "But I told Chris he had to lighten [Black] up a bit. If we were that morose, we'd have to be locked up."

  • Contributors:
  • Craig Tomashoff.