Titans Article #23

You'll forget TV's 'Titans' from the start

(By Robert Bianco from USA Today)

Once again, Aaron Spelling brings us the titanic struggle between bad -- and really bad.

As you know if you have seen NBC's nearly unavoidable promos for the Dynasty producer's latest prime-time soap, the network has decided to sell Titans as a guilty pleasure -- though whether we or NBC should feel the guilt is left unclear. Now, I'm second to none in my admiration for truly, heart-stoppingly terrible entertainment (as witness, my video copies of Congo, Queen of Outer Space and the musicalized Lost Horizon). But I demand a certain level of innocence in my trash favorites, and I don't like producers trying to pass off incompetence as intent.

In place of Dynasty's Carringtons, we get the Williams clan. The head of the family -- for a few episodes, anyway -- is Richard (an about-to-exit Perry King), who lives across the street from his ex-wife, Gwen (Victoria Principal). Their children are the golden-boy adopted son, Chandler (Casper Van Dien); the bitter younger son, Peter (John Barrowman, who seems to be doing a bad imitation of Dynasty's Gordon Thomson); the smart, stiff daughter, Laurie (Josie Davis); and the trampy, drunken daughter, Jenny (Elizabeth Bogush).

Back home from a stint as a fighter pilot (and if that doesn't make you worry about the state of our national defense, nothing will), Chandler discovers Dad is marrying the much younger Heather (Yasmine Bleeth). Dad tells Chandler it's a pure, unconsummated love. Chandler does not tell Dad he had a less pure relationship with Heather in Hawaii.

Ah, the intrigue. Peter wants to sell Dad's favorite company, the aviation division, and break up Dad's wedding (''I'll fight you, Heather, with every weapon I have at my disposal''). He's also chasing after Dad's assistant, Samantha Sanchez (Lourdes Benedicto), who still has a crush on Chandler.

As the ads promise, Van Dien does have impressively sculpted abdominal muscles, along with a face that is equally sculpted -- and equally expressive. If he could teach those abs to say his lines, then he'd be onto something.

Cast as the genre's requisite center-stage bad girl, Bleeth is pretty enough, but she lacks the flair and acting chops Joan Collins, Donna Mills and Heather Locklear brought to similar roles. She's too obviously nasty, without the skill to make it seem amusing.

For all the talk of Titans being over-the-top fun, the pilot is oddly dispirited and languid. A stab at a double-entendre fight between Heather and Gwen falls painfully flat, as do the writers' efforts to stick in a few new biting insults.

There is, however, one hilariously outrageous moment in the final scene. The character's timing, of course, makes absolutely no sense, but it does send the show out with a bang.

Tune in for the last five minutes, if you like, but don't exceed that limit. Any more time and the guilt might be too much to bear.Titans

NBC, tonight, 8 ET/PT