"Gavilan" sounds like something carpets should be made of. And a carpet should, indeed, be made out of the new NBC series "Gavilan" that premieres at 9 tonight on Channel 4. A carpet, a pillowcase, anything more useful than the show itself, and that takes in a lot of territory.
Robert Urich, under whom "Vegas" folded on ABC, looks too weary even to try his Burt Reynolds impersonation in the title role of this drab adventure caper, all about a former CIA agent who now trouble-shoots willy-nilly, specializing in underwater undercover work. He's a consultant to an oceanographic institute, or something.
This Gavilan is not only one tough cookie, he's one idealistic croissant. Or so say his fellow adventurers, including guest nasty Mr. Snow, who is played by Paul Freeman, the suave Nazi of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." In the Donald Paul Roos script, it's considered Gavilan's badge of honor that he quit the CIA. And from this element in the story one can get a fix not on the mood of America but on the current mind-sets of daft Hollywood liberals.
"Why'd you really get out of it?" asks Alexa Hamilton as sultry Sarah Verlaine. "Oh," says Gavilan soulfully, "it just got so I couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys any more. Wasn't even sure what I was." Gavilan says he did his espionage stuff "for patriotism -- when it wasn't a dirty word."
If "Gavilan" were possessed of the tiniest intelligence, it could traffic in such sentiments, however specious, but it has no serious credentials and so the character's gloomy musings on moral ambiguities ring hollow and foolish. The whole show suffers from sullen pseudo-solemnity, and the comic touches fall flat. These include a blatant steal from "Magnum, P.I.": Gavilan shares his dwelling with a prissy British fop (Patrick Macnee in the John Hillerman role) and the two exchange the kind of manly banter that's groan-inducing enough when restricted to beer commercials.
"Gavilan" really is one long beer commercial in which the six-pack never arrives.