It's too soon to tell whether cloning will be a plus for civilization, but it has already provided opportunities for sheep and actors. Last season Jason Gedrick starred in Ken Follett's The Third Twin, a clone-centered CBS miniseries; at one point, five Gedricks filled the screen. Two are quite enough in Dean Koontz's Mr. Murder, as a mystery novelist (Stephen Baldwin) battles his killer clone (Stephen Baldwin). By the end of Part 1—when the bad Baldwin drives off with the good Baldwin's two daughters, and the good Baldwin gives chase on foot, and one of the kids cries, "Come on, Daddy!" as if rooting for a racehorse—you may think you can't take two more hours of this nonsense. But Part 2 offers some genuine suspense and a little humor before settling for a protracted run-and-shoot climax. Plus, Oscar winner James Coburn (Affliction) makes a brief but vivid appearance as an imperious industrialist. For a sequel, how about four hours of nonidentical clones, played by Baldwin and brothers Alec, William and Daniel?
Bottom Line: Preposterous but watchable
FOX (Sundays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
UPN (Mondays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Shows of the week
Could there be such a thing as a toon too many? Evidently, FOX doesn't think so. Family Guy, which officially premiered April 11 after a post-Super Bowl preview, is one of five animated shows on the network's prime-time schedule. Home Movies, another family comedy in cartoon form, follows Dilbert's animated funny business in UPN's Monday lineup as of April 26.
Although I'm partial to the human face of live action, I admit animation lends itself particularly well to the free-association comedy of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. When a hungover Peter Griffin, head of the household, says it "feels like there's accountants crankin' addin' machines in my head," we see the number crunchers in his cranium. When Peter watches Star Trek, William Shatner turns up at his front door. Okay, that could happen on a live-action sitcom too. But here, when Shatner walks away, he leaves his toupee in midair. Crass Peter's couch-potato tendencies give MacFarlane the pretext for one quick TV spoof after another, and some of them are hilarious. I find these satirical flights far funnier than the frustrated schemes of Stewie Griffin, a sinister baby bent on world domination.
Home Movies comes from the makers of Comedy Central's Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist and uses the same Squigglevision process (minimalist drawings wobbily animated) that gives me a slight headache until my eyeballs adjust. The looseness of the dialogue also takes getting used to. First the voice-over actors improvise their scenes, then the animators go to work "retroscripting." As a result, Home Movies meanders, but patient viewers will be amused by Paula (voiced by Paula Poundstone), a disheveled single parent who dislikes good babysitters because they make the mother "look bad."
Bottom Line: You'll be drawn to these shows
Showtime (Sun., April 25, 8 p.m. ET)
Considering the talent involved, you might say this project looks good on paper. Unfortunately, writer Charles Fuller (A Soldier's Play) didn't put enough on paper. Andre Braugher, Louis Gossett Jr. and Robert Townsend each direct and star in one of Fuller's three interlocking stories, but their efforts aren't enough to redeem the thin teleplay. In the first segment, Gossett directs Townsend as a struggling boxer. They are defeated by clichés and a phony ending. The second story, directed by Townsend, stars Braugher as a produce vendor pursuing an elegant woman (Lynn Whitfield) who has a condescending attitude. Braugher and Whitfield are fine, but Fuller fails to probe the characters' differences. Finally, Braugher directs Gossett as a family man who preaches nonviolence to his teenage son while trying to protect his sister-in-law from her abusive husband. Gossett is sturdy and sympathetic; the script is preachy and predictable.
Bottom Line: Not even a stellar cast can make Songs sing
CBS (Sun., April 25, 9 p.m. ET)
Don't go by the title, or you'll be expecting a rip-roarin' ol' western. This ain't exactly Red River, pardners. In fact, this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation is the tale of a 40-mile cattle drive in 1939 Ireland—and Durango is the name of a pub. Instead of Duke Wayne, you get gorgeous green landscapes, Celtic whimsy and a bit of romance.
Tired of accepting the insultingly low prices set by a local merchant, a young man with leadership qualities (Matt Keeslar from The Last Days of Disco) sells his neighbors on the idea of herding their cattle to a distant market. He says he's striking a blow against "privilege," but the whole thing seems more like an excuse to get out and enjoy the scenery. To give us relief from the hero's dull earnestness, his aunt (Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot) joins the drovers and puts in a tart remark from time to time. Also lending strength to the cast is Patrick Bergin (Sleeping with the Enemy) as the domineering father of Keeslar's love interest (Nancy St. Alban).
Bottom Line: Pleasant diversion, not high adventure
>Sunday, April 25 FRENCHMAN'S CREEK PBS (9 p.m. ET) An English gentlewoman (Tara Fitzgerald) goes swashbuckling with a French pirate on Mobil Masterpiece Theatre.
Monday, April 26 CAROLINE IN THE CITY NBC (8 p.m. ET)
In the one-hour season finale, Lea Thompson's character is set to wed—but who'll be the groom?
Tuesday, April 27 NEWSRADIO NBC (8:30 p.m. ET) Station owner Jimmy James says he's going to put himself out to pasture.
Wednesday, April 28 THE NORM SHOW ABC (9:30 p.m. ET) The funny Max Wright (ALF) plays the new boss of the social-service zoo.
Thursday, April 29 DIAGNOSIS MURDER CBS (9 p.m. ET) It's a two-hour episode, so Dr. Sloan has ample time to dip into his bag of tricks after the Masked Magician is murdered on live TV.
Friday, April 30 100 YEARS OF GREAT WOMEN ABC (9:30 p.m. ET) Barbara Walters salutes fascinating femmes, from Golda to Oprah
Saturday, May 1 THE X-FILES HBO (8 p.m. ET) Think the TV show is murky? Try making sense of this, the '98 movie.
ABC (Mon., April 26, and Thurs., April 29, 9 p.m. ET)