Fall TV preview: Saturday's new shows
Jeremy Piven plays ''Cupid'' and Bo Derek goes country in Saturday's new lineup
WIND ON WATER
CONCEPT Bo Derek as a widowed ranch-owner matriarch with a couple of good-lookin’ offspring. In Hawaii, yet. Jack Lord died a couple of seasons too soon.
THE SCOOP The show tries less to capitalize on Derek’s post-10 sex symbolism than on the extreme-sports possibilities of her athletic offspring: These incorrigible kids leap out of helicopters to snowboard down a hill; they ride into the ocean on horses and pull surfboards out of their saddlebags to catch a wave. ”I haven’t surfed in 25 years,” says Derek. ”But I have pretty good sea legs. So I’ve told them, ‘Don’t have me sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.’ It’s bad enough [playing] a mom of two adults. I want to get out there and play too.”
BOTTOM LINE Pretty and silly as all get-out, with Lee Horsley (Matt Houston) as a mustachio-twirling villain rancher.
CONCEPT Ellen grad Jeremy Piven is a Cupid banished to Earth to unite 100 couples before he can return home to Mount Olympus.
THE SCOOP Quirky good in a season full of quirky-bad shows, Cupid has a strong costar in Paula Marshall as Piven’s psychiatrist, who’s drawn to her hunky patient despite the very good chance he’s a nutball. Exec producer-director Scott Winant, who worked on My So-Called Life and thirtysomething, says: ”We’re all hungry for true romance and true connections. We have two [main] characters with divergent points of view, but they’re united in trying to help others strengthen their own relationships.” Says Piven more simply, ”I’m going to make Saturday night safe for good people to stay home and watch TV.”
BOTTOM LINE Piven grounds this potentially loopy show with a flinty, garrulous performance. The trick will be in steering Cupid from romance anthology-of-the-week, reducing him to wisecracking matchmaker.
Hey, CBS, you just paid $4 billion for NFL football. What’re you gonna do now? We’re going to Hong Kong! If you thought Howard Stern was a gambit to attract young male viewers to the network’s new sports franchise, get a load of 230-pound action star Sammo Hung. His show, Martial Law, completes the Eye’s family-friendly action trio on Saturday, thrust as it is between Early Edition and butt-kicking stalwart Walker, Texas Ranger. So long, Dr. Quinn; hello, chopsocky!
”Law represents the networks taking some risks,” says the show’s executive producer Carlton Cuse (Nash Bridges). True enough; not only is Hung one of the few Asian leads on an American series, he’s TV’s least-likely leading man. But don’t let his girth fool you: As evidenced by the opening sequence of the series’ debut — as awesome a five minutes as you’ll see this fall — he’s Jackie Chan light on his feet, dispensing rapid-fire moves and eye-popping acrobatics.
Hung — who plays Shanghai detective Sammo Law (get it?) — came to CBS’ attention by way of executive producer Stanley Tong, an equally pantheonic figure in Asian entertainment and the lensman behind Hung pal Chan’s three top-grossing films (and, more recently, Disney’s 1997 feature Mr. Magoo). ”In every sequence I choreograph, [the] excitement element has to be there,” says Tong. ”There has to be a unique stunt or fight. I don’t feel action is just about violence — you can always have fun with it.”
Tong’s humor-inflected brand of action has never achieved the success here that it has in Asia, but he believes America is ready for a funnier, more finessed sort of cop show. And Martial‘s premise — Law visits L.A. in search of an abducted colleague (former Nash Bridges star Kelly Hu) and winds up teamed with two LAPD vets (Louis Mandylor and Tammy Lauren) — will provide plenty of opportunities for stranger-in-a-strange-land humor. Something the star can certainly relate to: He’s still learning English.
BOTTOM LINE Hung’s bodacious charm makes up for a rather cookie-cut surrounding premise. The oddly appealing show has cult breakout written all over it (in pencil at least).
Cupid (TV - 1998)