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TV Review: NBC's 'Titans' soap just doesn't wash

Wednesday, October 04, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

With music that desperately apes the themes to "Dynasty" and "Dallas," NBC's "Titans" wants badly to resurrect the prime-time soap. But in tonight's pilot (at 8 on WPXI), "Titans" is more like Titanic.


When: Tonight at 8 on NBC.

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Victoria Principal, Perry King.


The ship, not the movie.

This Aaron Spelling production attempts every cheesy, tacky trick imaginable, but its efforts at being "good bad" (think: "Melrose Place" in its prime) fail. "Titans" is merely bad.

NBC calls the show a "guilty pleasure," but there's little pleasure to be had in this tale of the fractured Williams family.

Too bad. The premise actually shows trashy promise: Divorced mom Gwen (Victoria Principal) and dad Richard (Perry King) live in Beverly Hills mansions across the street from one another. There's a great scene of prodigal son Chandler (Casper Van Dien) returning home to see Mom, then picking up his Navy duffel bag and walking across the street to visit Dad. But expect to see that premise bulldozed by the fifth episode (don't get too attached to King's dense dad).

Having the divorced couple live across the street from one another makes a great framework for a soap, but "Titans" needs something more. And squabbling siblings won't cut it.

Chandler butts heads with rapscallion brother Peter (John Barrowman of "Central Park West"); sisters Jenny (Elizabeth Bogush) and Laurie (Josie Davis) clash. Jenny's an alcoholic, Laurie is meddlesome. Yawn.

Richard's executive assistant, Sam (1996 CMU grad Lourdes Benedicto), is the daughter of the family's former maid. She and Chandler were play buddies growing up. Now that they're adults, she'd like to arrange a different kind of play date in his bedroom.

Future episodes will introduce Jack Williams, Richard's brother, played by "Melrose Place" vet Jack Wagner.

To help draw teen-age viewers away from "Dawson's Creek," NBC press notes say Gwen "takes in her street-smart nephew (Kevin Zegers) after he leaves his abusive, deprived home."

Nauseating, isn't it?

The big clash tonight is between Chandler and Heather (Yasmine Bleeth). She's his scheming former lover from a Hawaiian fling a whopping two months ago. Faster than Heather can say, "Oops, I Did It Again," she gets engaged to Chandler's father.

"This is a real love, a pure love, the kind of love I hope you'll experience for yourself one day," dad tells Chandler. Snicker, snicker. Richard is clueless about Chandler's past involvement with his fiancee.

Chandler is steamed, or at least I think that's the emotion Van Dien is trying to display. Calling it "bad acting" doesn't begin to describe Van Dien's technique.

Van Dien fit in perfectly as a grunt who shot up space bugs in "Starship Troopers," but he is out of his depth even in this shallow soap. His line readings show little comprehension for what he's saying. Then again, the dialogue is atrocious, even by soap standards.

"Contemporary doesn't have to mean gauche," Heather says upon meeting Richard's ex-wife.

"Funny how so often it does," Gwen sneers in reply.

They're talking about age in the guise of interior decorating, but they could just as easily be discussing '80s soaps vs. "Titans." There's just no comparison.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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