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Television Review: 'Soul Food' tastier than 'Resurrection Blvd.'

Tuesday, June 26, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Showtime, HBO's poor rival of a premium channel when it comes to original series, premieres the second seasons of dramas "Resurrection Blvd." tonight and "Soul Food" tomorrow. Just as in their premiere seasons, "Soul Food" remains the superior series.

Boxing drama "Resurrection Blvd.," for all its good intentions as the only prime-time drama series about a Hispanic family, is not a major destination among original cable series. It's barely a minor detour.

The addition of a new cast member, former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Brian A. Green (he's reduced "Austin" to an initial), only underscores the mediocrity of "Resurrection Blvd." Save for a few gratuitous uses of profanity, tonight's episode is no more challenging, surprising or original than "90210." With its emphasis on familial relations and the love lives of the Santiago kids, "Resurrection Blvd." is a standard-issue melodrama with a Latino cast.

It could be more.

"Resurrection Blvd."

When: 10 tonight on Showtime.

Starring: Michael DeLorenzo, Alex Plana, Nicholas Gonzalez



As the season begins, Carlos Santiago (Michael DeLorenzo) is ready to get back into the ring and resume his boxing career a year after he was shot. Younger brother Alex (Nicholas Gonzalez) is in an aimless haze after being robbed of a victory last season by a crooked promoter (Ray Wise). Eldest son Miguel (Mauricio Mendoza) wants to prevent that from happening again by becoming a promoter himself.

Next week's episode is marginally better as viewers learn more about Green's Luke Bonner, a law student in the same class as Yolanda Santiago (Ruth Livier). Bonner and another new character, played by Leon Robinson, have some mystery about them. But when guest stars become more interesting than a show's regular characters, you know there's something wrong.

However, there's little wrong with "Soul Food," which distinguishes itself with better writing, more realistic characters and excellent acting, especially from the show's three female leads.

"Soul Food," based on the 1997 movie, and "Resurrection Blvd." both have soap opera-like continuing stories, but "Soul Food" is not as predictable and the Joseph sisters sound like real people, not TV characters.

In the aftermath of the first season's cliffhanger car accident, the Joseph women are sticking close to home. Independent career woman Teri (Nicole Parker) has gone into mother hen mode, caring for injured sister Bird (Malinda Williams) and watching out for the children of her other sister, Maxine (Vanessa Williams).

"Soul Food"

When: 10 p.m. tomorrow on Showtime.

Starring: Nicole Parker, Vanessa Williams, Irma P. Hall



Maxine's husband, Kenny (Rockmond Dunbar), was most seriously injured in the accident, leaving her to run their towing business. The accident also scarred the psyche of their son, Ahmad (Aaron Meeks), who was on his way to be baptized when the accident occurred. It's the second time something bad has happened before his scheduled baptism. The first time, family matriarch Mama Joe (Irma P. Hall) died. Now Ahmad fears a "baptism curse" and doesn't want to attempt it again.

Written and directed by executive producer Felicia D. Henderson, tomorrow's "Soul Food" shows the series is capable of subtleties, the kind that mark real human relationships. Whether it's the Joseph sisters trying to remember the brand name of adult diapers or a small gesture of forgiveness between two of the men in their lives, "Soul Food" rings true.

Sometimes the show devolves into crudeness for seemingly no reason other than because it can get away with it. Other times, the trash talking among siblings seems profanely honest.

Parker, a standout last season, remains the most compelling screen presence as the second season begins. It appears her Teri will be pushed in new directions in her career, which ought to give Parker additional opportunities to play with the character's supreme self-confidence that sometimes needs tempering in her personal life.

Though "Resurrection Blvd." didn't deserve a second round, a television viewing diet heavy in "Soul Food" continues to nourish the desire for dramatic entertainment.

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

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