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TV Reviews : ‘Hard Time’ Never Ascends to Its Satiric Potential

Creativity is this season’s UFO. There’s not enough to fill a flying teacup.

The promising if derivative premise for lighthearted “Hard Time on Planet Earth” is subverted in the premiere of the CBS series at 8 tonight on Channels 2 and 8.

An excessively violent alien is exiled to Earth and can earn his return home only by changing his ways. The result? An excessively violent hour of car chases and car crashes. Throw in a shooting serenaded by wailing police sirens and it’s the viewer who ends up doing the hard time.

Given human form, the alien called Jessie (Martin Kove) is accompanied by a cybernetic parole officer, a floating, talking, nagging sphere known as Control.

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Their introduction to Earth is traumatic. Jessie immediately gets himself into a mess and is soon in full, panicky, confused flight from the police while attempting to rely on his incredible strength (aliens always have incredible strength) and language he picks up from watching old movies on TV: “You’ll never take me alive, copper!”

As Control rushes to the rescue, Jessie also attracts the attention of a beautiful and sympathetic geologist (Marita Geraghty).

Created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas (the brothers who wrote “Predator”), “Hard Time on Planet Earth” squanders its vast opportunities for humor, in part because the role of Jessie demands a touch infinitely lighter than seems available from Kove (who was Det. Victor Isbecki on “Cagney & Lacey”).

What really dooms the opening hour, however, is the script by Thomas and Thomas, a cloddishly formulaic variation on other variations. Hence, what might have been a clever, artful satire instead turns out to be just another show.

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