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On the Tube: Street-wise city girl goes to big-sky country in 'Caitlin's Way'

Friday, March 10, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Clarissa explained it all years ago.

The secret world of Alex Mack has been revealed.

Time for a new Nickelodeon poster girl, one who is more worldly and with a bit of an attitude that masks a lot of pain.

TV Previews

"Caitlin's Way" airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. on Nickelodeon.

'good vs. evil' airs at 9 tonight on the Sci-Fi channel


That's "Caitlin's Way," which has a one-hour premiere tomorrow at 9 p.m. before settling into its regular 8 p.m. time slot Sunday.

The show seems to be designed for pre-teens with little media exposure since it mines just about every cliche imaginable.

"Caitlin's Way" isn't a stellar creative achievement like Nick's "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" (still the gold standard for smart kids' shows), but it's a decent family program that will appeal primarily to girls.

Since the death of her mom when she was a child, 14-year-old Caitlin Seeger (Lindsay Felton) has bounced from foster home to foster home without finding a true family. She's street-wise (stealing from a fruit and vegetable stand to feed a homeless man), cunning (tries to cheat classmates at gambling) and pretty miserable.

She just wants to be loved.

Caitlin's camera, her best friend, always hangs around her neck because taking pictures is "the only way I can make the world my own... pictures stay, people don't, it all works out perfectly."

After a run-in with the law and a stereotypical Irish-accented nun (I mentioned the cliches, right?), Caitlin gets shipped to Montana, where her mom's cousin Dori (Cynthia Belliveau) lives on a ranch with her sheriff husband (Ken Tremblett) and 14-year-old son, Griffen (Jeremy Foley).

How Dori never knew her cousin died remains one of the plot holes "Caitlin's Way" never addresses.

Caitlin resents moving to "a place where cows outnumber people," but her inner girl springs back to life when she falls in love with a horse that's been wounded -- just like Caitlin's tender heart.

Griffen just wants to be liked by his peers and resents Caitlin's freakishness -- she dyes her hair tips green before her first day of school -- and general disdain for everything and everyone. They squabble like siblings, but ultimately Griffen has compassion for Caitlin's situation.

It's not a great kids' show, but "Caitlin's Way" is passable family entertainment. Felton has the look of a young Claire Danes (complete with her "My So-Called Life"-era fake red hair) but not nearly the range or emotional complexity.

The scenery may be the most recommendable aspect of "Caitlin's Way." High River, Alberta, doubles for Montana, but it's still big-sky country and a beautiful backdrop even for an unoriginal children's show.

This reincarnation of USA Network's "GvsE," a supernatural action show about reincarnated agents of God, moves to its sister network, where it probably should have aired in the first place.

Though toned down a little -- it feels less derivative of "Pulp Fiction" -- "good vs. evil" remains one of the hidden gems of cable. It offers surprising storytelling, not the obvious connect-the-dots plotting that so often gives TV a bad reputation.

Tonight, Chandler (Clayton Rohner) gets hauled off to a loony bin in a frame-up after the Corps discovers he's told his son he's back from the dead as a bounty hunter for God. There Chandler meets a fellow patient (Kristin Minter, the lollipop-sucking desk clerk on "ER") who was imprisoned for knowing too much about the Corps.

Next week's episode focuses on Chandler's partner, Henry (Richard Brooks) and how he died and got recruited into the Corps. Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura on the original "Star Trek") guest stars as Henry's mom, and it's nice to see her back on screen without a salt shaker in her ear.

"GvsE" always seemed too stylish for the lowest common denominator USA Network.

The show may get a more welcome reception from viewers of Sci-Fi.

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