Lassie has nothing on Slim and Delbert, the dolphins who hang out at "Dolphin Cove"--which also is the name of their new CBS series that premieres at 8 tonight (Channels 2 and 8).
Slim and Delbert are not only bright and graceful. They're also psychic--they can sense when a swimmer is in trouble, one cove away, and lead rescuers to her.
They're not really the stars of the show. That title goes to Frank Converse, as a recently widowed dolphin researcher, and to Trey Ames and Karron Graves as his children.
In the initial episode, written by series co-creator Peter Benchley of "Jaws" fame, this American family arrives in Australia, where a wealthy dolphin lover (Nick Tate) is bankrolling Converse's studies of dolphin lingo.
The most compelling performance in the show is from Graves, whose character hasn't spoken since the death of her mother. Naturally, she has a great affinity for Slim and Delbert, but she doesn't get along so well with her new therapist (Virginia Hey).
Converse is rather cold and stolid for such a warm, soft series. But "Dolphin Cove" does offer Graves, the dolphins, pretty shots of Queensland and the currently chic status of Australia, personified here by aboriginal actor Ernie Dingo as Converse's assistant.
Benchley also took care not to wrap everything up in the first episode, so perhaps there is hope for "Dolphin Cove" in its struggle against the ratings currents.
Mel Damski directed the premiere for executive producers Dick Berg, Allan Marcil and John Masius. Ron and Valerie Taylor ("Jaws," "The Blue Lagoon") are the underwater cinematographers.