07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
Showtime (Sun., July 10, 9 p.m. ET)
Criticism is an exercise in sadomasochism. First I suffer through this four-hour, two-part ordeal. Now I make Showtime suffer for it. The aptly named Sins tries to tell the story of a German chemical dynasty. In World War I, this clan makes mustard gas, and in World War II, it makes poison for concentration camps. The Brady Bunch they ain't. The characters spend half the show speaking in chemical formulas, the rest in clichés, and the plot is as senseless, unsightly and smelly as smog. Burt Lancaster and Julie Christie star as the industrial czar and his daughter-in-law. They either desperately needed the work or they figured, "What the heck, this is a German miniseries; who'll ever see us?" We see you, Burt, twirling your mustache, trimming your nose hair and acting the fool. Some of the German actors' voices are dubbed in, so it's difficult to tell just how bad their acting is. But one German actor does stand out: Bruno (Wings of Desire) Ganz plays a scientific genius with some little aplomb. Otherwise, though, Sins of the Fathers manages to make evil, Nazi-collaborating German rich pigs look dull, like some substandard Sidney Sheldon trash that lost a lot in the translation. So lest you think that criticism and sadomasochism are sick predilections, just remember this: I warned you not to watch. I prevented that much suffering in the world. I pan, therefore I am.