Picks and Pans Review: Wild Palms

updated 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sun., May 16, 9 p.m. ET)

B-

And you thought Twin Peaks was cryptic! Welcome to Bizarro World. This radical, confounding six-hour miniseries, airing over four consecutive nights, is a mad swirl of shifting realities, cloudy symbolism, odd characters, strange coincidences and political conspiracy.

It's Los Angeles in 2007. James Belushi plays a patents attorney plucked from obscurity to be an executive of a television station implementing a revolutionary form of interactive TV. The station is owned by a powerful, shadowy senator (Robert Loggia), a character patterned in part on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. (Loggia plays a former science-fiction author who founded a cult called Synthiotics.)

The mini—produced by controversial filmmaker Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon) and creator Bruce Wagner, and shot by a series of directors including big-screen imports Phil Joanou and Kathryn Bigelow—grows more opaque, tangled and macabre as it goes along. (By the fourth hour, when you see Angie Dickinson, Loggia's ally, stumbling out of an empty swimming pool in high heels and swearing vengeance in Japanese, you take it pretty much in stride.) The problem is that the mini's surreal yet sterile dream state never becomes involving. And most of the action revolves around the most boring characters, the ones played by Belushi and Kim Cattrall, as his former lover.

Most of the cast, which includes Bebe Neuwirth, Ernie Hudson, Dana Delany, Brad Dourif, David Warner, Bob Gunton and Charles Rocket, seem to be in a trance. Only a few of the cagier veteran actors in the ensemble—Loggia, Charles Hallahan and Robert Morse—manage to transcend the weird, narcotizing material.

For originality and daring, the mini-series gets an A; for sense and clarity a C-. Averaging it out...

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