When renegade scientist Emmett Lach (Matt Cravan) needs to test his alternate-universe machine, he recruits his friends Ben Creed (Tate Donovan) and John Bollandine (Abraham Benrubi). Upon discovering Alternate L.A. to be much of an improvement over regular ol’ Los Angeles, Creed and Bollandine decide to stay there. Nicely plotted, engaging and frequently witty, “Tempting Fate” would be even more impressive if same premise hadn’t been similarly mined by producers of former Fox (and upcoming Sci-Fi Channel) series “Sliders.”
At first, two universe-skippers are impressed by Alternate L.A.’s cleanliness, fact that automobiles are com-mon property, and everybody’s cheerful disposition. Also, (real-life) talkshow host Tom Leykis isn’t on the air, discussing “why L.A. sucks,” as he is back home.
Additionally, Creed is pleased to learn that in this universe, he’s married to former g.f. Melody (Grace Phillips), whom he brushed off under pressures of work in his “other” life. Conveniently, the Creed in this universe was killed in the Desert War, so Donovan character is able to fall in after Bollandine explains to all concerned that “Creed” wasn’t killed at all but has suffered some memory lapse.
Slowly, Creed and Bollandine learn that life in their new home isn’t as perfect (by their standards) as they’d assumed, but their way home is soon eliminated by a plot twist. Things don’t get any better.
Donovan is satisfying as brain surgeon on the run, though frequently outshone by affable sidekick Benrubi, who’s seemingly ready to take over any time John Goodman is unavailable for a role. Phillips’ vagueness is, as it turns out, true to character, and Philip Baker Hall is effective as Creed’s boss at the hospital. Also notable are Paul Ben-Victor and Carter Spohn as a couple of sinister police officers.
Gerald and Justin DiPego’s vision of Alternate L.A. has some nice turns (Elvis is still alive; the establishment has a way of dealing with criminals that involves the citizenry) and gives the characters some good lines. When Cal Tech scientist Ellen Moretti (Ming-Na Wen) tells Creed that he has a good idea, he ripostes, “Well, I am a brain surgeon.”
Peter Werner’s direction is OK, and tech credits are adequate.