"GvsE" is a new drama series about secret agents who work on "reducing the demon population in Hollywood." Talk about having your work cut out for you. Those secret agents should start the demon-reduction by obliterating their own snotty little series.
Many TV shows do nothing but kill time; this one beats it to death with a stick and then slow-dances on its grave.
It's common for a new show to be based on somebody else's previous hit. "GvsE" departs from that formula in that it's based on a flop, the stylishly inventive but low-rated Fox series "Brimstone," which aired last season (and which some viewers thought was itself somewhat derivative of "Highlander").
"Brimstone" was about a dead cop sent back to Earth to eliminate evil escapees from Hell. "GvsE" is about a dead reporter who comes back to Earth to eliminate lost souls who have fallen under the influence of evil. One difference between the two shows is that "Brimstone" was well written, directed and acted, and "GvsE" is the hack work of slick tacky slackers.
"GvsE" premieres on cable's doggedly mangy USA Network tomorrow night at 8, which is too early for a show filled with violence, graphic gore and bad language. But while the broadcast networks are showing a tiny token minuscule infinitesimal hint of sensitivity about what they program in early prime time, basic cable networks like USA and the comparably grubby TNT are not.
At least "Brimstone" had enough daffy conviction and finesse to make viewers suspend disbelief, or want to. In the case of "GvsE," everyone involved has tried to remain flippant, smart-alecky and, oh yes, cool. They're beyond cool; they're stone-cold. And stone-clammy. And corny, as when it's said of a man wrongly jailed for a murder that he was "framed better than the Mona Lisa."
Chandler Smythe, the dead reporter, is portrayed by Jason Patric look-alike (but not act-alike) Clayton Rohner. He's teamed with Henry McNeil, another dead guy, played by Richard Brooks. McNeil drives around carjacker-infested Los Angeles in an orange Volvo station wagon because "no one ever thinks about stealing a Volvo station wagon," ha-ha.
Much of the premiere is devoted to setting up the premise, which is as complicated as it is stupid. Smythe dies in the opening scene; it's 3 o'clock in the morning, he hears a noise in a dark and scary alley, and he's dumb enough to march into the alley, alone, and investigate. Soon he's immensely dead and being told he's been chosen to be an "agent for the Almighty," assigned to go back to Earth to search and destroy "morlocks," who are evil souls disguised as normal people.
Oh good Lord, the mere premise is suffocating!
Among those mischievously identified as morlocks on the premiere: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jane Fonda, Don King and Gavin MacLeod, formerly of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Love Boat." None of these people, of course, turns up. It's all just part of a (wee and tiny) joke.
Smythe is given a complex set of rules to obey. He is not allowed to have sex while back on Earth, he can have no contact with people from his former life (though on the premiere he does make contact with his teenage son), he is endowed with no magical or supernatural powers (that saves the producers money on special effects), and, if a morlock shoots or stabs or strangles him, he will die again, even though he is already dead. Huh?
Our two morlock-hunters believe in acting cool above all else. They make snide wisecracks, shrug at danger and bumble about in a lackadaisical manner as if not giving a damn, which is quite the contagious attitude. Apparently it's supposed to be funny that they just sit by staring while an old woman chokes to death in front of them. They think about giving her mouth-to-mouth, but since she's old and icky, they decline.
Later they take the woman's corpse along to lunch at a tacky L.A. junk food diner.
Jonas and Josh Pate, the brothers who wrote and directed the premiere, fill it with visual cliches: a bobbing and weaving camera that reduces action scenes to blurs, sudden cuts to mini-flashbacks, and lots of intrusive rock music. Result: a veritable nightmare of mediocrity. The notion that the two imbecilic and self-centered heroes represent "good" is as ridiculous as maintaining that the USA Network stands for quality programming.
CAPTION: Dead again: Richard Brooks, above left, and Clayton Rohner in USA's "GvsE"; narrator Deacon Jones, below.