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TV Reviews: 'A.U.S.A.' crashes, while 'Nova' takes to the skies

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

If you're a TV critic who loves the medium, you want to give new shows every opportunity to impress. Often, networks will send out tapes of not just the premiere, but also of several early episodes. Other times, they have only one good episode. And sometimes, only one episode is available due to rushed production schedules.

NBC sent tonight's premiere of "A.U.S.A." for review weeks ago. A second episode arrived yesterday. It didn't help the show's case.


When: 9:30 tonight on NBC.

Starring: Scott Foley, Amanda Detmer.


With charismatic Scott Foley as the star and Richard Appel ("The Simpsons," "King of the Hill") as creator/executive producer, "A.U.S.A." has potential on paper, but once on its feet, it does a face-plant.

Tonight's premiere begins with a laugh track-heavy sequence that does the show no favors, but once it gets going, there are a few genuinely funny moments. Unfortunately, NBC has ruined any surprise there might be in "A.U.S.A" by using these scenes over and over in its promos.

Foley stars as Adam Sullivan, a newly minted assistant United States attorney (hence the A.U.S.A. of the title), cursed with a dim-bulb roommate (Eddie McClintock) and a dimmer-bulb paralegal (John Ross Bowie). He's also got an unrequited crush on defense attorney Susan Rakoff (Amanda Detmer), who ignored him throughout law school.

Adam gets off to a poor start through errors of his own making (an injury, an unfortunate bathroom incident) and those of his roommate, Owen, who introduces Adam to two nurses. Turns out they're on the jury in the case Adam's boss is prosecuting, and the pair wave to him when they enter the courtroom, leading to a mistrial.

In scenes like this, "A.U.S.A." brings to mind the best of "Night Court." Unfortunately, those scenes don't exist in next week's wan episode, making "A.U.S.A." guilty of being seriously unfunny.

'Battle of the X-Planes'

"Battle of the X-Planes"

When: 8 tonight on WQED.


It sounds like a comic book title, and, indeed, this installment of PBS's "NOVA" should have particular appeal to the pocket-protector crowd.

Whether or not you have a degree in engineering, it's a fascinating two hours about the five-year competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter.

Nicknamed "X-Planes" for their experimental nature, the vehicles are developed before viewers' eyes in a behind-the-scenes glimpse of creation and test flights.

Paranoid conspiracy theorists may find it ghastly that PBS would devote two hours to the making of a military weapon, but anyone with a genuine appreciation for invention and innovation will have reactions similar to those of the blubbering engineers upon seeing their completed plane take to the sky.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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