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On the Tube: Sunday is a mixed bag

Friday, October 04, 2002

By Rob Owen Post-Gazette TV Editor

If CBS's decision to move "Becker" to 8 p.m. Sunday won't kill the show, jettisoning Terry Farrell as Ted Danson's love interest might do the trick, judging by the heaps of angry e-mail I've received from viewers who now consider themselves former "Becker" fans.

Alfred Molina and Traylor Howard are father and daughter in "Bram & Alice." (Cliff Lipson/CBS Worldwide Inc.)

And if neither of those factors doom the series, its new companion sitcom ought to finish the job. CBS's "Bram & Alice" (8:30 p.m. Sunday) is an unfunny disaster.

Some critics are bending over backward trying to find something nice to say about "Bram & Alice" because it comes from former "Frasier" producers Joe Keenan and Christopher Lloyd. But a past hit isn't always a good predictor of future success. "Frasier" writers also had a hand in the Nathan Lane flop "Encore! Encore!"

Alfred Molina ("Ladies Man") stars as Bram Shepherd, a self-described "pathetic lothario who can't keep track of his conquests." He's also a one-hit wonder novelist (shades of "Stark Raving Mad") with a daughter he doesn't know.

Enter Alice O'Connor (Traylor Howard), a young aspiring writer, who has no idea Bram is her father until the fateful day her mother confesses and Alice meets Bram.

Of course, Bram hasn't seen Alice since she was a toddler and immediately assumes the young woman is a former bedmate. So he continues to hit on her.

Some viewers will be offended by the incest humor. It bothers me more that "Bram & Alice" has such an unoriginal premise with few laughs. He's a jerk, she wants to be his princess, blah, blah, blah. It's predictable tripe, a half-hour show that feels endless. Our only hope is low ratings will make it end soon.

'Angel' (9 p.m. Sunday, The WB)

After a summer of behind-the-scenes turmoil -- the co-creator quit, a new executive producer came, the same executive producer went a few weeks later -- "Angel" returns, surprisingly, in fighting form.

The "previously on ..." segment at the start of the show proves how incredibly serialized the series has become -- any would-be newcomers will be lost -- as it hurriedly recaps the entire past season.

When last we left the gang, Angel (David Boreanaz) was locked in a box by his son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser), tossed into the ocean and descending to the bottom of the sea. Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), endowed with new powers, was ascending to another plane and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) was sleeping with the enemy, Lilah (Stephanie Romanov).

Sunday's season premiere moves quickly, resolving several dangling plots while showcasing secondary characters Fred (Amy Acker) and Gunn (J. August Richards) as the submerged Angel hallucinates his way through the episode.

"Life should be bright and beautiful, but no matter how hard I try, everything I touch turns to ashes," he says.

Once again, the spinoff from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fires on more cylinders than "Buffy," with an hour of surprises, humor and sharp dialogue in a script by Steven S. DeKnight.

Trouble in the production offices may catch up with "Angel" somewhere down the road, but so far it's off to an excellent start.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582.

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