Picks and Pans Review: The Bourne Identity

updated 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sun.-Mon., May 8-9, 9 p.m. ET)


What a great beginning: It was a dark and stormy night (as Snoopy would write), and on a ship whipped by mean waves Richard Chamberlain is shot and falls into the water, deeper and deeper. When next we see him, Chamberlain is being operated on by smalltown doctor Denholm (A Room with a View) Elliott, who fixes his bullet wound and then cuts into a tattoo on Chamberlain's naked hip to find a microfilm with the number of a Swiss bank account. Chamberlain awakes but has amnesia and goes to Zurich to find out his name (Jason Bourne) and to find that bank account filled with $15 million, apparently payment for notorious political assassinations, evil deeds that Chamberlain cannot remember. Neat stuff, eh? Yet like a sprinter with two left feet, this TV adaptation of Robert Ludlum's novel starts well but soon trips, stumbles and falls flat. I first got a sinking feeling when, after watching Elliott and Chamberlain trying to outclass each other, I heard the voice of Ms. Miniseries herself, Jaclyn Smith. It was a comedown. But this mini's faults are not Smith's; she does her best with an implausible role as a brilliant professor who is kidnapped by Chamberlain and too soon becomes his co-conspirator, protector and lover. No, the problem with this story is its script, which gets worn out and lazy after that great beginning. It relies too heavily on the hackneyed old amnesia ploy and fails to flesh out the story's bad guys. Near the end, one character says to another, "That explains everything!" Which means that something had to be explained. Which means trouble.

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