Picks and Pans Review: The Golden Spiders

updated 03/06/2000 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/2000 01:00AM

A&E (Sun., March 5, 8 p.m. ET)

Nero "Wolfe is a sedentary sleuth. He's loath to leave his Manhattan brownstone or miss a meal prepared by his personal chef. (Not incidentally, he weighs "a seventh of a ton.") He'd much rather tend his orchids than tail a suspect.

To play this giant of detective fiction, central to more than 70 books by Rex Stout, a man needs mass plus mystique. (Think Orson Welles, reportedly sought for the NBC series that ultimately starred William Conrad in 1981.) In The Golden Spiders, the Wolfe part goes to Maury Chaykin {Entrapment), a capable character actor who gives a solid performance. But neither Chaykin nor Timothy Hutton (as Wolfe's jaunty legman, Archie Goodwin) has the presence to distinguish this TV movie from the general run of workmanlike whodunits. The early-'50s murder plot, involving skulduggery behind the facade of a refugee-aid organization, is awfully slow to gain traction. And most of the supporting roles, including the cigar-chomping police inspector (Bill Smitrovich), are cartoonish without being funny.

Bottom Line: Mystery fails to strike gold

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