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TV Reviews : Robin Givens Scores Split Decision in ‘Penthouse’

Let’s be serious: The only public interest in “The Penthouse,” airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), is to figure if Robin Givens could be a contender.

The onetime sparring partner for champion Mike Tyson may have heavyweight pretensions as star of a psychodrama about a young woman, Dinah, being held captive in her golden penthouse apartment by a childhood pal, Joey (played by David Hewlett). He has since turned demented and hallucinates that he forever loves Dinah and vice versa. And they can be always together by hurling themselves off the building.

Shaky logic--and Dinah begins to anguish over the possibilities.

Dinah’s wealthy record-executive father (Robert Guillaume) likewise anguishes. As do the police, who are stymied by explosives that block the stairwell and by the security guard, whose dead body clogs the elevator.

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But it’s not very anguishing for us, what with lightweight direction (by David Greene) that plods along and a flyweight script (by William Wood and Frank De Felitta, from Elleston Trevor’s novel) that telegraphs its punches.

Fact is that whatever may be going on in Joey’s punchy head seldom translates to the screen and comes off as easy script device to toss in wherever dramatic shtick is needed. Joey grabs the knife or he falls into a trance or he talks silly. . . .

Givens, trying to graduate from her “Head of the Class” sitcom, does puzzlement, then evolving fear, then growing comprehension of how Joey’s mucked-up mind works. For what she’s called on to do, she does a very credible job. She has some good moves, but this is really mostly shadow boxing.

If one were to indulge in analogy from the squared circle, one would score this as a split decision.

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