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Tuned In: Dull 'Threat Matrix' is no threat to rivals

Thursday, September 18, 2003

ABC's "Threat Matrix" (8 tonight) poses absolutely no threat to the dominance of its competition, NBC's "Friends" and CBS's "Survivor," which has its "Pearl Islands" premiere tonight.

No, "Threat Matrix" is just another straw man, a series thrown to the lions. Unlike some, this one deserves to be eaten. It's a dull, unsurprising drama about an anti-terrorism task force. Some have compared it to CBS's canceled spy drama "The Agency," but that dishonors "The Agency," which told a decent yarn its first season.

"Threat Matrix" more closely resembles the second, inferior season of "The Agency," when someone got the idea that more viewers would watch if romantic relationships were developed. That's conventional TV thinking, but who wants to see spies getting all lovey-dovey? Wouldn't it be better to show them acting professionally?

The same flawed thinking that ruined "The Agency" dooms "Threat Matrix," which depicts special agent John Kilmer (James Denton) and his ex-wife, Frankie Ellroy Kilmer (Kelly Rutherford) still working together. He's her boss.

"Are you up for this, Mrs. Kilmer?" John asks Frankie.

"I'm not Mrs. Kilmer anymore," she replies coolly, but with enough concern in her eyes to hold out the hope that she might someday melt into his arms again.

Add to this a sensational opening scene of the team stealing a warhead from a missile silo in Wyoming -- at the request of the president -- and then waving it in the face of a senior military officer.

There's no "Matrix" to get lost in here, just an obvious, straight-ahead national security drama filled with cardboard-thin characters. It's interesting that producers cast a deaf actress (Shoshannah Stern) as a deaf character, but that comparatively tiny, unique touch isn't enough to redeem a show whose only threat is to waste the time of viewers who tune in.

'Reno' renewed

Comedy Central has renewed its "Cops" parody series "Reno 911!" for an additional 13 episodes to premiere next spring.

'Carnivale' ratings

HBO's "Carnivale" got the highest ratings for an original series premiere in the network's history with 5.3 million viewers, according to Daily Variety. Given the network's promotion of the show, that's not a huge surprise.

Next week's ratings will serve as a better barometer of the show's future. That first hour moved slowly and may have turned off some viewers.

'KDKA Morning Show'

Channel 2 premiered its new 9 a.m. hour of local news on Monday. Lighter and friendlier than traditional newscasts during other parts of the day, the "KDKA Morning Show" is a hybrid -- some news, more features. It's not a talk show like the old "Pittsburgh 2Day," but it is closer to that end of the spectrum than any other newscast currently on the air.

Host Jennifer Antkowiak introduces the broadcast before tossing to 5 to 7 a.m. anchor Bruck Pompeani, who reads headlines. Rebecca Hower offers a full forecast twice in the hour.

In between, Antkowiak interviews guests in the studio and introduces a segment called "Spin the Dish," regurgitating stories from around the world brought in by satellite.

Antkowiak is seated on a stool for most segments, although as the show begins she stands at a lectern on what looks like a "Star Trek" transporter pad (or maybe it's a Borg assimilation chamber).

What makes this broadcast odd is its constantly shifting tone -- one minute it's a news story about murder, the next, Antkowiak interviews "the angel ladies," who predicted several months ago that Antkowiak would soon work a morning shift.

"There's a lot of positive energy in here," one of the angel ladies says. Positive energy? In a newsroom? Any newsroom?

"I had a foggy drive into work this morning, did you?" Antkowiak asked the audience Tuesday at the top of the show. But chances are, no one who works 9 to 5 was watching. That begs the question, what is the intended audience -- shut-ins without remote controls?

If you've already seen the morning headlines and weather, why waste another hour hearing it all again? The interview segments certainly aren't enough to keep viewers tuned in, especially compared to the features offered in the third hour of "Today" on WPXI and "Live With Regis and Kelly" on WTAE.

Sex '4 Life'

WTAE's latest "Healthy 4 Life" special (8 p.m. tomorrow) looks at sex among the elderly and new products designed to enhance sexual activity. Medical editor Marilyn Brooks hosts "Private Lives, Public Health."

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 . Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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