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.
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 has 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 mob’s master driver. Metro somehow illegally operates on his brain to make him think he’s Joe Astor, so he can now handle Viper’s wheels.
Astor (played flatly by James McCaffrey) inexplicably sports a Metro badge and thinks he’s an ex-Chi cop. He chases down his former allies, who intend to do him in; the fumbling mob — known here as the Outfit — wants the incredible Viper to help them beat the law.
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. More, Viper belongs to the cops, who (as Astor points out) shouldn’t have it because they’re immoral. Besides, city hall’s tied up with the Outfit, as anyone can plainly see.
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.