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Tuned In: 'Dark Angel' has no prayer unless program lightens up

Tuesday, October 03, 2000

She's a babe; the show's a bust. Er, make that, a bomb.

Fox's "Dark Angel" (9 to 11 tonight on WPGH) swoops in like a sullen, angry teen-ager. And then it beats you over the head with its shoulder-shrugging, "whatever" attitude for two long boring hours (pushing the 10 p.m. news back to 11).

The Fox hype machine would have you believe "Dark Angel" is the vision of "Titanic" and "Terminator" director James Cameron, but it's actually Charles Eglee ("Murder One") who's running the show. In tonight's pilot, he's worked running into the script, too, with genetically engineered babe Max (Jessica Alba) riding her motorcycle, soaring through the air on a wire and moving faster than an Olympian.

No performance-enhancing drugs here, just good ol' genetic engineering at work. Max has a bar code on the back of her neck to prove it.

It's an intriguing premise that's done in by a dull pilot episode. Tonight's best scenes offer tantalizing flashbacks to Max as a child, with her nearly bald fellow prototypes escaping from their creators at a remote Wyoming base.

That was in 2009. Flash forward about 10 years to life after an electromagnetic pulse ruined the American economy.

Cool and detached bike messenger Max continues her search for the other mutants who escaped with her, paying a detective to track down information. That's before she gets involved with Logan (Michael Weatherly), a rich muckraker who hacks into TV to broadcast his Freedom Video Stream, which denounces corrupt institutions.

World-weary Max is attracted to Logan, but she resists because, well that would show weakness and that just won't do when a foul temperament is your way of life.

"Hope's for losers," Max says. "It's a con job."

That's our lovable Max. Don't you just want to hug her?

And that's what's most disconcerting about this show: There's no reason to like the main character (except for the babe thing, of course). She probably has some humanity hidden somewhere, beneath her pouty, wounded facade, but she's not about to let any vulnerability show. Instead, she's a poser who traffics in snarls.

"Like I said, guys are the weaker sex," says Max.

She is Superwoman, hear her howl.

There's some hope that "Dark Angel" will improve with future episodes. One of the co-executive producers, Rene Echevarria, has a proven track record, writing for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and last season's "Now and Again." Maybe he can lighten up "Dark Angel." Fox had better hope so.

The network has high hopes for this turkey, with visions of drooling fan boys ogling Alba. But at a bloated two hours, the "Dark Angel" pilot forces guys to choose: Will their jonesing for Alba overtake MTV-bred short attention spans?

For tonight, probably so. With the exception of The WB and UPN, rival networks will air the first presidential candidates' debate (and baseball on most NBC stations). But unless there's some speck of humor in future episodes, "Dark Angel" will simply go dark.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum .

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