In the new action-adventure shows, paranoia is palpable. The worldis a place overrun by undercover organizations both good and evil, atviolent war with one another just out of our sight, their warriorstending to be people with really nice bodies and excellent tans. Soclandestine are these bodacious battlers, their shows are tucked awayin the netherworld of syndication. Both Acapulco H.e.a.t.(syndicated; check local listings) and cobra (syndicated; check locallistings) are the sorts of hour-long action-adventure vehicles youstumble upon while flipping around for a football game or the WeatherChannel, get hooked on, and then feel ashamed about in the morning.
Acapulco H.E.A.T. is Baywatch crossed with The Man From U.N.C.L.E.A top- secret group of operatives called H.E.A.T.-an acronym forHemisphere Emergency Action Team-works out of an undergroundheadquarters situated beneath a luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta,Mexico. The team’s ”cover” is to work as bathing-suit models for theAcapulco Beach Fashions company.Lest you actually find this premise believable, I hasten to addthat the owner of H.E.A.T.’s hotel base is played by famouslonghaired model Fabio. On the TV screen, Fabio’s head has an oddtriangular shape-point at top, square- jawed base. His deliberate,Italian-accented English, delivered through an immovable,gleaming-teeth grin, renders a line like, ”Is everything in place?”as ”Izzzzz eveeeery-sing place?”Not a member of the H.E.A.T. team and not even comic relief, Fabiohas the most superfluous supporting role in TV. He’s merely there todraw viewers who know his flowing mane from romance-novel covers, andto wave politely when the show’s real stars stride through the hotellobby. Of these, Catherine Oxenberg (Dynasty) is the only familiarface. In a thankless role, her character is haughty and dour, thebetter to contrast with the loose, wise-guy behavior of her costar,Brendan Kelly. As gratified as I am that H.E.A.T. features a leadactor with even less hair than I have, Kelly is an awkward actorwhose swagger is stiff.The series is also promoting a brunette version of Baywatch’sdangerous- curves sex symbol Pamela Anderson; she’s played by AlisonArmitage as ”Cat” Pascal, a ”former cat burgler” who now enjoysfighting crime in a succession of bikinis. The bad guys in H.E.A.T.tend toward the political-terrorist organizations (the Red Brigade isregularly invoked like a satanic mantra) and polluters are favoritefoes.Like the H.E.A.T. crew, the hero of COBRA belongs to an eliteorganization- this one is called COBRA, but it doesn’t seem to standfor anything. COBRA is an undercover agency that helps crime victimsget justice without going through the police department. Deep withinCOBRA’s ultra-private headquarters, our hero, ”Scandal” Jackson(Michael Dudikoff of American Ninja), is dispatched to find serialkillers and psycho kidnappers, slap the tar out of them, and mayberun back and forth over them a few times in his spiffy-looking redcar (it’s a Cobra!). No show like this would be complete without anattractive woman, one with no other function than to stand around andpose; this COBRA colleague is played by Allison Hossack (AnotherWorld). If you know a casting director, please put in a good word forHossack so that she can leave this series ASAP (hey, that’s a goodacronym for a show).The creator of COBRA is writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell, whountil recently cluttered up prime-time network TV with junk like this(remember last season’s The Hat Squad?). Cannell is building a smallsyndication empire these days. He’s also the auteur behind Renegade(syndicated; check local listings), now in its second season,starring Lorenzo Lamas and featuring the longest, most repetitiveexplaining-the-premise opening credits on TV (”He was a cop, and goodat his job. But he committed the ultimate sin and testified againstother cops gone bad.”). One big reason all these TV shows seem so badis that they can’t compete with the elaborate violence, flesh, andspecial effects in R-rated action movies these days. Of course,another big reason they seem so bad is that they are bad. AcapulcoH.E.A.T.: D+ COBRA: D Renegade: D-