Picks and Pans Review: Arabian Nights

updated 05/01/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/01/2000 01:00AM

ABC (Sun., April 30, 8 p.m. ET; Mon., May 1, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Executive producer Robert Halmi Sr. took 10 hours for The 10th Kingdom. Would he turn the ancient Arabian Nights—also known as The Thousand and One Nights—into a-three-year maxiseries?

Not to worry. This collection of colorful tales clocks in at a comparatively fast-paced four hours—a neat trick for a miniseries that's essentially about stalling. Soured on women since his late wife conspired to assassinate him, Sultan Schahriar (Dougray Scott) decides to take a new bride and have her executed the morning after the nuptials. Brave Scheherazade (Mili Avital) volunteers for the dangerous connubial assignment, convinced she can enthrall Schahriar with storytelling until his sanity returns. "I can save him from himself," she says. Famous last words, fair one! But her yarns hold our interest as well as the sultan's, thanks to exotic locations (Turkey and Morocco), imaginative direction (by Steve Barron) and vivid performances (see John Leguizamo as both a fat, kvetchy genie and a giant, fearsome one).

Bottom Line: Stay the nights

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