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TV Reviews: Lifetime investigates world of women sleuths

Sunday, July 27, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

HOLLYWOOD -- Lifetime, one of the few basic cable networks to have success with multiple scripted series, expands its offerings again, adding two more original programs to its Saturday night lineup.


"Wild Card"
When: 9 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime
Starring: Joely Fisher, Rae Dawn Chong

"1-800-Missing"
When: 10 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime
Starring: Gloria Reuben, Caterina Scorsone

"Wild Card"

First up is the mild "Wild Card," which stars Joely Fisher as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas who returns home to Chicago to care for her nieces and nephew after her sister dies in an auto accident.

Responsibility doesn't come naturally to Zoe ("Nobody's ever accused me of being an adult before," she says), so caring for her kin presents challenges. She's also determined to ease their minds by proving, despite initial accident reports, that her sister was not at fault for the accident. This sets up the show's franchise. By the end of the premiere, Zoe is hired as an investigator who works with colleagues (played by Chris Potter and Rae Dawn Chong) to solve fraud mysteries.

But it's the stories involving the children that are likely to draw many viewers. Zoe's niece Taylor (Vikki Krinsky) is a budding beauty who's ready to sow her wild oats. Nephew Cliff (Devin Drewitz in the pilot, Jamie Johnston in subsequent episodes) seems to be most affected by his mother's death, hiding beneath headphones as he shuts out the world with music. Youngest niece Hannah (Aislinn Paul) adds the requisite cute quotient.

"Wild Card" was created by Lynn Latham and Bernard Lechowick, who also created my all-time favorite series, "Homefront." "Wild Card" isn't as ambitious as "Homefront," at least not initially. But at a press conference earlier this month, the producers made a persuasive argument for sticking with "Wild Card" to see it develop.

"The character of Zoe is dealing with so many different things at once. She has never been a parent before. Now she's got three kids. She has a new job. She has a new love interest," Latham said. "It's a real balancing act as it is for women in the workforce and men in the workforce."

Fisher, last seen slumming in CBS's really bad "Baby Bob," brings a vivacious attitude to Zoe. She's not as deliberately funny as she was in The WB teen soap parody "Grosse Pointe," but Fisher has a welcome twinkle in her eye.

"In the field of fraud investigation, there's an extra use of female investigators because they, for whatever reason of gender prejudice, get information from people more easily than male investigators do," Lechowick explained.

Some viewers may see shades of "Erin Brockovich" in "Wild Card," although Latham said the series was inspired by a family friend who investigates fraud and now serves as a consultant on the show.

'1-800-Missing'

Imagine "Without a Trace" with a psychic and a sense of humor and you'll have an idea what to expect from this enjoyable series.

Gloria Reuben ("ER") stars as Brooke Haslett, an FBI agent who investigates missing persons cases. While searching for a missing woman from Washington who has a link to a U.S. senator, Brooke is paired with Jess (Caterina Scorsone), a 21-year-old who is gifted with psychic powers after being electrocuted. She looks at a picture of a missing person and later has dreams that give her clues to the person's whereabouts.

Brooke and Jess make an unlikely, but likable pair. Even better, their rapport creates humor naturally.

"You're this great person until we get onto the whole dream thing and then you're like the Spanish Inquisition with big hair," Jess says.

"You think I have big hair?" Brooke asks.

"If you're, like, a rock star, it's regular," Jess replies. "If you're an FBI agent, it's big-ish."

"1-800-Missing" is based on the "1-800-Where-R-U" novels by author Meg Cabot ("The Princess Diaries"), which were inspired by something that happened to her.

"I went for a walk with a friend of mine and something we were leaning on got struck by lightning and neither of us got ESP and we were really mad," Cabot said, evincing a style of humor similar to what's in "Missing." "I thought that's what happens, according to most movies I've seen. So I went home and wrote a book about it, about a girl who did get ESP after being struck by lightning just to get it out of my system, my anger."


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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