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Fall '99: "The Strip"

Pity the poor action show. Saddled with comparatively enormous budgets, extremely limited production schedules, outraged moral guardians spouting off about violence in entertainment and silver screen epics that face none of those pressures, the action show has died an ignominious death.

The last vestiges are skimpy syndicated programs like Pensacola: Wings of Gold, Viper or Amazon, the kind of shows you see on Sunday afternoons competing against football.

But here comes UPN, intent on reviving the genre on network television, first with Seven Days and now The Strip. Then again, it is UPN so maybe network television is too strong a phrase.

The Strip is the kind of program that reminds you why you (and the rest of the country) never watch UPN. A poor man's Miami Vice rip-off, it features a scruffy white cop who lives on a boat, a nattily attired black cop and a character named Elvis. Unfortunately, Elvis isn't the scruffy white cop's alligator; it's the scruffy white cop himself.

The Strip is set in Vegas (Elvis' boat is up on blocks) and opens with Elvis and his partner Jesse getting busted off the police force. They're approached by the supposed billionaire owner of Caesar's Palace to do some security work for his casino.

The owner is played by Joe Viterelli, Robert DeNiro's right-hand man in Analyze This. Viterelli is by far the best thing about The Strip, a living exception to the rule that TV is all about the beautiful people. Joe Viterelli is anything but beautiful. He is, in fact, quite possibly the most ridiculous excuse for a billionaire in entertainment history. Every sentence out of his mouth sounds like he's ordering a hit on some guy who owes 20 large plus the vig. It's wonderful to watch and truly inspired casting.

Unfortunately, the show does not revolve around lengthy Joe Viterelli soliloquies; it revolves around the two cops. Elvis is played by Sean Patrick Flanery, who actually did something worthwhile in his career when he portrayed the title character in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Unfortunately, Flanery has developed a frightening similarity to Pauly Shore.

That alone makes The Strip unwatchable. Every time Flanery sneers, which is at least once a scene, it's as if Shore himself were on your screen, taunting you. There's nothing to do at that point but whip out a .44 and put a bullet through the picture tube while screaming "I'll see you in Hell's Bio-Dome, Pauly Shore!"

Then of course, the TV doesn't work. So you crawl under your covers and pull them over your head to protect you from the evil visage of Pauly Shore's disembodied head, sneering at you, whining about how it's "time for the wease!"

So you cry yourself to sleep, and once the nightmares are over, you wake to a fresh new day, vowing to never, ever watch UPN again.


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