Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Syndicated Series Sail Seas of Cheese to Exotic Ports

By Devin D. O'Leary

OCTOBER 18, 1999:  The new TV season brings with it a whole new crop of syndicated series ready to fill the nooks and crannies of every station's schedule. Late nights, weekends -- these are the stomping grounds of "Baywatch," "V.I.P." and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Series." At their best, syndies rate as guilty pleasures -- cheesy little sci-fi/fantasy/action series with minor stars, minuscule budgets and plenty of B-movie appeal.

The theme among this year's syndies seems to be jungle adventure. Giant snakes, scantily clad gals and lots of foliage are apparently the focus du jour.

"Peter Benchley's Amazon" bears a curious hallmark, considering the pop paperback author hasn't written anything good since 1974's Jaws. Actually, "Amazon" is the first thing Benchley has penned that isn't a direct rewrite of Jaws. In what sounds more like a bad movie than a bad series, a planeload of uninteresting stereotypes crashlands somewhere in the Amazon rainforest. In a plotline that will surely not sit well with Brazil's tourist board, the survivors (C. Thomas Howell and Carol Alt among them) are quickly beset by headhunters, piranhas and poisonous snakes. Apparently, the whiny cast will spend every week avoiding such deadly perils and never once run across, say, a giant American logging operation slashing and burning its way through the forest. Grade: D+

At least "The Lost World" has the good sense to couch its cheesy adventure in fantasy. It's the latest of several movies, miniseries and TV shows to remake Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic story in hopes of being accidentally confused with Steven Spielberg's hit movie of the same name. In it, Victorian explorer Professor Challenger leads an expedition into a previously unknown territory stocked with computer-generated dinosaurs, scantily clad blonde jungle babes and a race of lizard people that look a hell of a lot like the old Sleestaks from "Land of the Lost." The effects are pretty bad, and for some reason, the entire series looks like it was shot through a layer of Saran Wrap. With its mixture of action, cheesecake, bad acting and dudes in rubber suits, though, "The Lost World" comes closest to imitating the old movie serials. Grade: C-

"Best of the Lot" honors, such as they are, belong to "Relic Hunter," a seriously silly series that manages to exactly duplicate the hit videogame Tomb Raider months before Hollywood is able to crank out a legitimate movie version. Hawaiian babe Tia Carrere (Wayne's World) stars as Sydney Fox, an Indiana Jones-style archeologist who travels the world grabbing valuable mystical treasures. Brit boy Christien Arnholt tags along to take off his shirt in assorted sweaty locales. Although the show doesn't even seem to understand the difference between archeology and anthropology, it maintains enough of a campy air to actually succeed. Grade: B

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