TV REVIEWS : Carradine Kicks In With New ‘Kung Fu’

If you’ve been waiting for the return to TV of truly grasshopper-sized entertainment, then your ship has hopped in. “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” a syndicated--and, needless to add, superfluous--sequel to the hit ABC series of the ‘70s, premieres tonight (at 8 on KCOP-TV Channel 13).

David Carradine is back, playing the grandson of his original “Kung Fu” character, a homeless ascetic wandering through a nameless big city. Naturally, he spouts nonstop proverbs and aphorisms (“To achieve victory, one must get inside the mind of an opponent,” he tells a bad guy whose knife-wielding hand he’s just grabbed, apparently just for the sake of hearing himself talk) to the extreme point that you, too, may wish for some swift-footed karate adversary to land podiatric damage upon Carradine’s gibbering-on-empty larynx.

Ah, but how’s this for high concept? Unbeknownst to him at pilot’s beginning, Carradine has a son he hasn’t seen in decades, and the boy has grown up to be a trigger-happy but lovable undercover cop in the very metropolis dad is now passing through. And you’ll never guess who the evil Chinatown crime lord they both find themselves facing off against is. The evil rival fu-meister responsible for separating father and son back in the Far East lo these many years ago, you say? Well, OK, maybe you will guess.

The fact that the son (Chris Potter) is on the force means, of course, that the new series can feature nasty shoot-'em-ups and have papa preach the gospel of pacifism for equal time’s and auld lang’s sake. Each slug will be counterbalanced by a wise saying, or what passes for one in Hollywood’s version of mystic-speak.


Early on, tonight’s two-hour premiere plays like a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody of the old “Kung Fu”; the totally unconvincing slow-motion shots of the no-longer-boyish Carradine knocking down rows of villains and leaping over moving vehicles--all set to New Age music--couldn’t be funnier.

Toward the end, writer Michael Sloan seems to get in on the joke and starts playing the dialogue more for deliberately kooky laughs, though they’re never quite as giggly as the ones you come up with yourself. Wise man say . . . ah, never mind.