After getting off to a rousing start with its flagship show "Star Trek: Voyager" Monday night, the United Paramount Network quickly begins a military-scale dumbing down with tonight's premieres, "Marker" and "The Watcher," which serve little purpose other than to provide elusive acting gigs for Richard Grieco and Sir Mix-a-Lot, respectively.
In "Marker," with his long sideburns, earrings and bad-boy scowl, Grieco seems to be trying to go for a New Wave Mafioso-kid aura, like some sort of muscular, posturing cross between Mickey Rourke and Luke Perry. His overly Angst- pumped hero from Jersey returns in tonight's pilot to Hawaii after the death of his long-estranged father, whereupon wealthy dad's assistant asks Grieco to take up his pop's late lot in life: returning favors.
Seems the father had taken to handing out hundreds of numbered crystal tokens to everyone whom he ever owed a favor, redeemable at any time, the burden of which the son will now take up as a means of grieving through his grimace. The first redeemee is guest star Nia Peeples, a comely surf champion whose missing sister may be in the hands of drug lords.
Many bikinis ensue. Biceps, too. The climax is a big brawl between mob henchmen and beefy beach bums, which would quickly end if any of the bodyguards at the kingpin's estate carried a gun, but this ain't that kind of show.
"The Watcher" is a weirder breed of TV animal. Rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot--whom we always could infer had peeper tendencies--plays jive-talking host to this Las Vegas-set anthology series, tracking all sorts of goings-on from a high-tech, high-rise control room with monitors hooked up to every nook and cranny in the city. Why exactly he's watching all this is never explained; why any of us would is inexplicable, as well.
The tone of the three intermingling stories tonight is equal parts "Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," with a little "Love: American Style" thrown in. One tale deals with a high-roller who employs two Texas rubes in a loaded-dice scheme; another features a nerdy hypnotist who seduces multiple babes (Kathy Ireland among them) before getting a comeuppance; the third thread has a couple blowing all their money while deciding to marry. Each strand leads to a remarkably unsatisfying "surprise" twist.
Even in his grave, Rod Serling stands little threat from "yo sky-high homeboy," as the voyeur Mix-a-Lot, most famous for "Baby's Got Back," refers to himself. Sorry, Sir, but baby's got no legs.
* "Marker" premieres at 8 tonight and "The Watcher" at 9 on KCOP-TV Channel 13, KUSI-TV Channel 51 and KADY-TV Channel 63.