Picks and Pans Review: War of the Worlds

updated 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Syndicated (check local listings)

C+

Some performances in this new syndicated sci-fi series wouldn't qualify for the acting or even the spokesmodel segments on Star Search. Mind you, bad acting can be okay when a show is trying to be campy and kitschy—when, for instance, the tough-guy colonel (Richard Chaves) prepares to do battle with evil Martians and says, "We'll make alien sushi out of them." With ludicrous lines like that, you want ludicrous acting. But War of the Worlds doesn't have enough wonderfully bad lines to go around. Too often, the actors are stuck saying dull things about computers and feelings. Says the beautiful lady scientist (Lynda Mason Green) fighting with her handsome scientist boss (Jared Martin): "I have long prided myself on being a result-oriented person." If I wanted to hear talk like that, I wouldn't waste time watching TV; I'd make friends with MBAs. War can't decide whether to be a campfest or a real show, whether to be Night of the Living Dead or Star Trek. The producers are even too timid to give their characters strong feelings and fears about Martians. This show is supposed to be occurring 35 years after the Martians invaded Earth and were killed by germs (the series comes 35 years after War the movie and 50 years after War the radio show). So these people should hate Martians worse than New Yorkers hate Californians. But the Earthlings barely remember the invasion. In one breath Martin will recall the invasion, and in the next he'll talk as if it had never occurred: "I mean, how do we continue to insist...that we're the only intelligent life-form in existence?" That is lazy storytelling. But still, Worlds has its moments—when that colonel gets campy, when the stars get to play with great spaceship gadgets, when the Earthlings and aliens go to war. War has all the elements of a good sci-fi series; now they have to work at getting those elements on the screen at the same time.

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