Review: ‘Viper’

Filmed on locations around So. Calif. and at Paramount Studios by Pet Fly Prods. and Paramount Net TV. Exec producers/creators/writers, Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo; co-exec producer, Don Kurt; producers, David L. Beanes, Michael Lacoe; director, Bilson; It's rev-up time as NBC intros this pilot for the latest jazzy motorized crime fighter, the Viper, red-hot sports car that, once it gets a lube job, may be smarter than its operators. Series, airing Fridays, 8-9 p.m., could skid into viewers' hearts -- if they're juve-minded and have just popped a can of suds.

Filmed on locations around So. Calif. and at Paramount Studios by Pet Fly Prods. and Paramount Net TV. Exec producers/creators/writers, Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo; co-exec producer, Don Kurt; producers, David L. Beanes, Michael Lacoe; director, Bilson; It’s rev-up time as NBC intros this pilot for the latest jazzy motorized crime fighter, the Viper, red-hot sports car that, once it gets a lube job, may be smarter than its operators. Series, airing Fridays, 8-9 p.m., could skid into viewers’ hearts — if they’re juve-minded and have just popped a can of suds.

Clipped right out of the comics, the pilot’s characters are as mechanical as the car (actually Chrysler’s sleek, $ 50,000 Viper sports model), the action as predictable. Dorian Harewood plays Julian Wilkes, inventor who’s souped-up the Viper so it can do impossibly wondrous things like change colors and spit missiles from its doorjambs. Viper’s cheerfully and dangerously test-driven through city streets, but goes out of whack the first time it’s hit broadside.

The Metro Police, covering Southern California territory in some future era, have captured the master driver/crook for the mob, known as the Outfit. Metro somehow illegally operates on the driver’s brain to make him think he’s a character named Joe Astor (played flatly by James McCaffrey).

Astor, inexplicably sporting a Metro badge, thinks he’s an ex-Chi cop as he chases down his former allies. The far-fetched plotting under co-creator Danny Bilson’s energetic direction is no more tomorrow-world than was Dick Tracy, and nowhere near the fun.

For juice, Astor’s femme doctor (Sydney Walsh), in on the secret brain surgery, has an affair with Astor without a thought to medical ethics. Humor’s badly served in the person of motor-pool chief Frankie Waters, played irritatingly by Joe Nipote. Series concept will be that Wilkes and Astor, freed of police connections and joined by Waters, will use the Viper to fight crime.

The reasoning’s bum, since they’re financed by Astor’s illegal savings from his previous self.

Violence jumps into the front seat of the two-hour pilot (13 episodes have already been filmed). Rolled vehicles, spinouts, a woman blown to pieces, a man hurled off L.A.’s towering St. Thomas Bridge supply some of the exercise in the pilot.

There’s enough action, i.e., screeching tires and hardware gimmicks, to attract susceptible viewers with its win-by-hook-or-crook message. The graham cracker brigade and undiscriminating adults might well just buy into this one.

Viper

Production

NBC, Sun. Jan. 2, 9 p.m.

Crew

Camera, Greg Gardiner; editor, Frank Jimenez; art director, Peter Clemens; sound, James Larue; music, Eddie Jobson; production designer, Francis J. Pezza.120 MIN.

With

Cast: James McCaffrey, Dorian Harewood, Joe Nipote, Sydney Walsh, Lee Chamberlin, Jon Polito, Jason Carter, Fay Hauser, Marte Boyle Slout, William Russ, Sami Chester, Lisa McCullough. Mark Pellegrino, Josh Cruze, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, David Q. Combs, Biff Manard, Camille Winbush, Rachel Wells, Karen Maruyama, Jackie Millines, Ric Roman Waugh, J Bradley Sevy.
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