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Syndication, Inc.

What with TiVo, a million cable stations, a DVD player, and the occasional foray out of my apartment, I don't spend as much time aimlessly flipping through the channels as I used to. Luckily for me, though, I was recently stranded in a hotel room with only five channels, so I was able to catch up on the latest terrible syndicated television: Adventure, Inc. starring Michael Biehn.

Michael Biehn? From Terminator, Abyss, and Aliens? Well, yes. His IMDB profile since then features some pretty bad movies, most notably "Megiddo: The Omega Code 2." He also appears to have been one of the basketball players in "Grease," but I'm not sure if I believe that. Anyway, Adventure, Inc. is produced by James Cameron's ex-wife, Gale Anne Hurd. So it looks like she got Biehn in the divorce settlement.

Adventure, Inc. is the story of a "treasure hunter" named Judson Cross. It's based vaguely on the real life of a guy named Barry Cross, but I guess "Barry" wasn't a silly enough name for television. But since this show is based on Barry's exploits, it's clearly the heir to 1982's Bring 'Em Back Alive, which starred Bruce Boxleitner as wild game hunter Frank Buck. That show also starred Boxleitner's "Tron" costar, Cindy Morgan. She was also Lacey Underall in Caddyshack. Biehn's costar is a woman named Karen Cliche, and I am far too cultured to make fun of her last name and how it applies to this show. I will note that she used to be on a show called Vampire High, which I can not believe I never saw.

The third member of the ensemble is Jesse Nilsson, who you have no chance of recognizing. Even if you happened upon his brief appearance in "Teenage Space Vampires," he's clearly just here as a good-looking kid to take off his shirt, because Biehn is getting kind of old for that sort of thing. The three stars live on a boat (like the guys on Riptide! Or one of the brothers on Simon and Simon! I think it was Rick!) and sail around the world to scenic yet inexpensive locations to do what Judson refers to as "marine archaeology". And because this is Television Archaeology, that means we've got a companion for Tia Carrere's Relic Hunter. Or possibly a replacement, if Ms. Carrere's star vehicle has been cancelled. It's hard to tell with these syndicated shows. In any event, they search for altars, magic items, and all sorts of Indiana Jones-style gewgaws. Along the way, they rely heavily on terrible puns -- while Judson is engaged on a fistfight while rappelling down a cliff, his sidekicks say things like "he's at the end of his rope," and when Judson wins, he says "first you're up, then you're down."

The main difference between Adventure, Inc. and Relic Hunter, aside from the fact that it will be a cold day in hell before Playboy asks Michael Biehn to pose nude, is that this time out, there's explicit magic going on. Tia Carrere occasionally had to deal with a Greek ashtray that glowed when no one looked at it, but Adventure, Inc. bases whole episodes on ghosts from the Vietnam War or bad guys who live for generations by injecting themselves with Extract of Mummy. If you don't believe me, feel free to look at the show's official web site.

But it's not all ancient temples with wacky booby traps and creepy guys named "Excellency." These guys are high-tech! Which means, of course, that they occasionally have to break into "secure installations," which they do with a proper respect for tradition. Speaking of which, does that trick where you spray aerosol into a room to reveal the hidden lasers really work? Because it's been done so much, you'd think the security force would just install something to detect whatever it is the hero is spraying into the air.

Because this is that kind of show, albeit a syndicated version made on the cheap, there are stunts, so fans of jeeps going over cliffs and blowing up won't be disappointed. And really, who isn't a fan of jeeps going over cliffs and blowing up? The only difference between this show and Fastlane is a few million dollars per episode. And the articles in Entertainment Weekly. And, I guess, the fact that Michael Biehn is old enough to be the father of everyone on Fastlane.

As Cross, Biehn doesn't make a very good archaeologist; he's prone to leaving priceless altars in the caves where the Mayans left them, giving "It's where it belongs" as an excuse. What kind of talk is that? As an Action Archaeologist, isn't it his job to take things from where they belong, then hand them over to creepy guys from the government so they can languish in a warehouse somewhere? How will future generations of warehouse workers find employment? He's just being irresponsible.

Naturally, as soon as I got home from the hotel, I made sure that I set a TiVo Season Pass for Adventure, Inc. It's not what the professional television critics call "good," but it's more entertaining that a hundred "Man Who Saved Christmas"es.


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