Picks and Pans Review: Prey

updated 01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1998 01:00AM

ABC (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)

C+

A better title for this drama series might be Dead Meat, since it has the misfortune of being scheduled opposite Friends. (The previous victim in this time slot, the worthy Nothing Sacred, has been switched to Saturdays.) But the show may appeal to two constituencies: environmentalists and the X-Files crowd. Al Gore and others who are hot and bothered about greenhouse gases should applaud the premise: Somehow or other, global warming has produced a new species of man that looks human but actually wants to wipe out Homo sapiens. The Jan. 15 premiere establishes that bio-anthropologist Dr. Sloan Parker (Debra Messing, formerly of Ned and Stacey) will lead the effort to save humankind with help from medical researcher Dr. Ed Tate (Vincent Ventresca), police detective Ray Peterson (Frankie Faison) and Tom Daniels (Adam Storke), who introduces himself as an FBI agent but turns out to be of a different breed than X-Files feds Mulder and Scully.

The first episode goes too heavy on creepy atmosphere, and some of the dialogue must be heard to be disbelieved. (After explaining her theory of a deadly new species to the skeptical cop, Sloan says, "You're going to have to trust me on this. It's what I do.") But the basic situation has potential, and Larry Drake (L.A. Law) is felicitously cast as Dr. Walter Attwood, the hero's sinister boss.

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