Picks and Pans Review: Fantasy Island

updated 11/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Saturdays, 9 p.m. ET)

It's not the hottest of our fantasies, but we've long wished Malcolm McDowell would realize the potential he showed in his. movies of the late '60s and early '70s (A Clockwork Orange, If...). The British actor had a young-rebel image then; now he's craggy and white-haired at 55. What hasn't changed is his magnetism. Playing Mr. Roarke, the mysterious, imperious hotelier who makes guests' dreams come true, McDowell owns his every scene in ABC's new version of Fantasy Island. He's a far more intriguing innkeeper than Ricardo Montalban in the original series (1978-84). Other plusses include lush location photography in Hawaii and the presence of distinguished veterans Fyvush Finkel and Sylvia Sidney as an odd pair of travel agents who send clients Roarke's way. Alas, the vacation package has imperfections. The fantasy-fulfillment plots are of varying quality, and too much time is spent on unfunny business involving Roarke's flunkies (Edward Hibbert and Louis Lombardi). His female aide (ex-Twin Peaks waitress Mädchen Amick) can transform herself into any woman a patron's fantasy requires, but she gets little chance to establish an identity of her own.

Bottom Line: Not a five-star resort, but the host is first-class

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