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The following review and pictures are property of TV Guide and courtesy of Web Warrior Bob.

The Couch Critic

By Jeff Jarvis

ABC, Mondays, 8 P.M./ET

Amazing how a good idea can turn bad so quickly. I'd love to see a new spy show now, even as the espionage trade is being downsized in the new world economy. Nowadays, spies are about as necessary as keypunch operators. Yet spies do know - literally - where the bodies are buried. They're still dangerous and devious. Take these ferrety characters, arm them with techy weapons, give them grate plots or punch lines and sic them on a generic enemy, like The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s THRUSH, and you should have a blast. Should.

In the first minute of Spy Game, I hoped this would be such a show: a Get Smart for the millennium. In a brilliant job of guest-star casting, Patrick Macnee, the legedary spy-star of The Avengers, appears as a retired spook playing golf. Suddenly, a mis-swung club flies into a tree and uncovers a camouflaged sniper. Macnee and his playmates attack him with their putters and win the round. The scene is outrageous and funny. It's also, apparently, an impossible act to follow; form the next minute on, Spy Game becomes an intense bore.

The series stars Linden Ashby as ex-CGI agent Lorne Cash and Allison Smith as Max London, his beautifyl, daring partner: his Agent 99. She has concrete nerves. One way into the headquarters of their secret new spy agency, ECHO (Emergency Counter Hostilities Organization), is to drive down a blind alley at over 100 mph, straight for a brick wall that opens at the last minute. She's driving; she's cool. He's not. She's the real spy geek here, the one who gets sweaty playing with new guns that shoot bullets, gas pellets, even mini missiles. They're a good team, well armed with neat toys. But they're on missions with no backup from the lousy writers and directors at HQ. They get bad lines and worse plots, set to a dorky mockery of '60s spy-flick music (like the "In Like Flint" theme reinterpreted for elevators).

After our spies lament how unwanted they are - "No more East, no more West, no more big rooms full of cool stuff" - they're sent to nab a bitter ex-agent trying to kill the president or to rescue a Russian ex-spy's mom who's being held hostage to get her son to perform some dastardly act. This should be cause for campy humor, clever repartee about the state of the world, or at least nail-biting chases. Instead, we get lines that fill air: As they try to jup onto a moving jet, one spy screams to the other to close a hatch; he asks where the handle is; she says, "That would be the thing that says 'handle'." See: The writers aren't even trying. that's because all of this is just a thin excuse for gratuitous violence - way too many karate chops for one show, especially one in the family hour. It's stupid to produce such senseless violence at a time when TV is being attacked (unfairly, I usually say) as a violent medium. It's not only dumb, it's dull.

Oh, well. I guess they just don't make spies like they used to.

The previous review and pictures are property of TV Guide and courtesy of Web Warrior Bob.