It's hard not to get too excited about Out of Time, NBC's made-for-TV movie that will be airing on Ch. 2 this Sunday evening at 8.
For one thing, it's first-run programming - fresh meat on network television's sparse summertime picnic table. And for another, it's a pretty good little entertainment - not great, mind you, but diverting enough to be a reasonably pleasant way to spend a couple of hours this weekend.And if that doesn't exactly sound enthusiastic, I'm sorry. The fact is, I enjoyed the movie when I screened it recently, but I'm not sure I trust the reaction. I mean, how much confidence would you put in Al Church's rave review of the first restaurant he visited after an extended fast?
So if I start to wax a trifle lyrical when I talk about this science fiction comedy/adventure, give the paper a good shake and bring me back to reality - OK?
Produced and directed by Emmy winner Robert Butler ("The Blue Knight," "Hill Street Blues"), "Out of Time" stars Bruce Abbott as Channing Taylor, a maverick policeman in the year 2088. It's a world where money has been outlawed, where nobody makes books any more and where three networks (GBS, Fox and, of course, NBC) dominate culture and thought. And it's a world where law enforcement officers have all kinds of neat gadgets to help them in their work, thanks to the ingenuity of Taylor's great-grandfather, Max.
But Channing keeps getting into trouble on the force because he insists on doing "the work that was intended for machines." And it looks like he's into it deeper than ever when he chases a crook named Markus (played by rocker Adam Ant) all the way back to 1988.
Don't ask me how. It's all too Orwellian. Just think of it as "Back to the Present."
Channing has some trouble adapting to the Twentieth Century (when he sees a woman smoking he asks her, "Doesn't that hurt?"). But when he bumps into his great-grandfather Max (effectively played by Bill Maher) you just know they're going to hunt that nasty old Markus down.
Not your typical disease-of-the-week TV-movie storyline, is it?
And creativity is just one of the things this two-hour series pilot (yes, it has a dangling ending that just begs for follow-up) has going for it. The best thing about "Out of Time" is its sense of humor. It's funny. No, I take that back - it's hilarious. No, it's more than hilarious - it's hysterical! You'll be on the floor! You'll be begging for them to turn off the joke machine! It's unbelievable! This is the most incredibly funny thing this side of Robin Williams! (Oh, no - I'm losing it! Shake the paper! Shake the paper!) . . .
Thanks - I needed that.
OK, it's not that funny. In fact, it's not exactly a comedy. But it doesn't take itself too seriously, either. There are jokes and gags aplenty here, although there are only a couple of occasions where I felt they were trying too hard for the humor. Most of it flows naturally and evenly, and many asides are tossed off in such a way that you might miss them if you don't pay attention. (There's a pretty good Stephen King joke early on. Listen for it.)
Maher is absolutely charming as Max, and Abbott brings the right mix of boyishness and danger to the role of Channing. Ant is suitably whacko but not quite menacing enough as Markus, and Kristian Alfonso and Rebecca Schaeffer offer good support as Channing and Max's respective girlfriends.
Butler uses a lot of interesting video techniques to give "Out of Time" a unique look and feel. On-screen blips are used for scene transitions. And when Channing starts hopping around in time, the picture gets so jumbled up you'll think your set is on the fritz.
Maybe that's what's known as innovation. Or maybe it's just weird. Whatever - I found it refreshing. Revitalizing. Satisfying. Enthralling! Mystifying! Electrifying! Incredibly, marvelously, stupendously . . . (crumple, crumple) . . .
* THE DEED IS DONE. The deal is set. KUTV's Randall Carlisle will only be "KUTV's Randall Carlisle" until Aug. 19, when he will become the news anchoring property of KSTP-TV in Minneapolis, Minn.
As reported here Tuesday, KUTV has hired Bob Evans, a BYU-educated anchor from KMBC in Kansas City, to take Carlisle's place alongside co-anchor Michelle King on the Ch. 2 news at 6 and 10 p.m. That appears to have been the final hurdle that needed to be cleared before KUTV would consent to release Carlisle from the remaining 11 months of his contract with them. Word came from Minnesota late Wednesday that the final compensatory arrangements had been worked out between KUTV and KSTP, and that Carlisle is on his way.
One thing that does need to be cleared up, however, is Carlisle's place of birth. We have reported a couple of times that he is a native of Ontario, Canada. However, the 39-year-old newsman is really from Worster, Ohio, a small town near Cleveland - still much closer to Minneapolis than Salt Lake City.
Sorry about the error, Randall. Good luck, and may the ratings be with you.