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Impact Films Inc.
Alex (David James Elliott) lands on the moon to try to fix it.

What is our fascination with the destruction of the Earth?

Or, at least, what is Hollywood's fascination with the destruction of the Earth? Because, in movies and on TV, the planet has been threatened with annihilation from outer space on a regular basis.

On TV, we've been hit with "A Fire in the Sky" (1978), "Meteor" (1979), "Asteroid" (1997), "Meteorites" (1998) and "Asteroid! The Doomsday Rock" (2003). In theaters, we got hit with both "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" in the same year (1998).

Just to name a few.

Basically, what happens is that some big rock in space threatens to make us as extinct as the dinosaurs. And, by golly, we've got to do something about it or we're all going to die!

That, in a nutshell, is the plot of "Impact," a two-part TV movie that airs June 21 and June 28 at 8 p.m. on ABC/Ch. 4.

As "Impact" begins, everybody is all excited about an impending meteor shower that promises to be spectacular and is supposed to be harmless. (You know that can't be the case — there'd be no movie if it was harmless.)

Anyway, lurking behind the harmless meteors is a piece of a dead star. It hits the moon, and, before you know it, cell phones aren't working, bolts of electricity are shooting around Little League fields, gravity stops working in spots and the moon is 39 days away from smashing into us and annihilating the planet. Yikes.

As is always the case with TV productions like this, there are a few minutes of special effects with hours of dopey plot wrapped around them. You've got widowed scientist Alex (David James Elliott), his kids and father-in-law (James Cromwell) trying to work out their problems; super-smart scientist Maddie (Natasha Henstridge) who's trying to save the planet while her sleazy journalist ex-husband is trying to revive his career — and, oh, Maddie and Alex used to be an item.

It's a big, dumb soap opera that sometimes get downright silly. Wait until you hear the speech the president delivers to the nation.

And, while some of the special effects are sort of cool, others are ludicrous.

"Impact" isn't the worst thing ever. It's mildly entertaining if you disengage your brain.

But it's been done before. A lot.

PROMOTION? Steven Culp is, perhaps, best known for his role on "Desperate Housewives" — he played Bree's first husband, Rex Van De Camp.

But he's not unfamiliar with playing a political figure. Culp had a recurring role as Speaker of the House Jeff Haffley on "The West Wing," causing trouble for President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) from time to time.

Now he's the president of the United States in "Impact."

Yeah, well, considering that dopey speech he has to give, it's not that much of a promotion.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com