TV Eye

Star Power

After months of delay, the WB is finally launching Movie Stars (7/11, 8pm, WB), a half-hour comedy staring Harry Hamlin (L.A. Law) and Jennifer Grant (Beverly Hills, 90210). The pair star as Reese Hardin, the star of blockbuster action movies, and Jacey Wyatt, a respected, Academy Award-winning actress, trying to be good parents while living the life of Hollywood royalty.

Critics who recently waxed mournful at the disappearance of strong father figures in television may not be heartened by Hamlin's Reese Hardin, whose judgment is shown to be short-sighted and his parental sacrifices easily won. In the premiere episode, Jacey pushes Hardin to lay down the law when his overbearing 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Lori (Marnette Patterson), swoops in to declare her intentions of living with her father and step-family. Along with her acidic teen attitude-with-a-capital-A and her unmasked dislike of stepmom Jacey, Lori brings strange boys into the house, "borrows" the family limo, and generally causes havoc, all on the day of Jacey's big movie premiere -- which she misses, thanks to Lori's antics. Patterson's Lori is in fact so detestable, one wonders why she isn't immediately bullet-trained back to the hell from which she came (in this case, Ohio).

In the next episode, Reese enrolls Lori in an exclusive private school that son Apache (yes, Apache) attends, only to confront the error of his decision when the girl once again wreaks havoc, this time for brother Apache (Zack Hopkins). Apache is a latter-day Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox in Family Ties), who counts on his contact with the children of Hollywood agents and studio executives to launch his future career as a schmoozer and shaker. Reese Hardin scores even fewer points on the dad scale when he resorts to using his celebrity (and ready cash) to buy his children what they need or want. When the precious Rachel David, as the Hardin's youngest daughter Moonglow (yes, Moonglow), tags along with Dad on a film shoot, Dad trades on his star status to make sure she gets a few moments on camera in spite of the protestations of the director.

Fortunately, there is humor in the show, but it's not from the juxtaposition of ordinary family life in Hollywood. There is much bankable humor on the premise that Reese, who accompanied brother Todd (Mark Benninghofen) on an audition years ago, inadvertently became a superstar, while the Julliard-trained Todd slags away as his brother's personal assistant and as Tweety Bird at children's birthday parties. While constantly grumbling at his brother's success, Todd finds solace with other show-biz siblings Joey Travolta, Don Swayze, and Frank Stallone. Thankfully, the trio have recurring roles as themselves. Their ruminations as brothers near the limelight -- but not quite able to bask in its glow -- is the source of good-natured and self-effacing humor. Movie Stars premieres Sunday, followed by a second episode Mon., 9pm, on the WB Network.

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