TV REVIEW : 'Divas' Debut on Fox Proves Soap Can Be Soulless in Seattle

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Divas," a TV movie on Fox tonight, is a soap-opera vision riding a sexy concept into prime-time.

The saga of a sultry soul quartet should have some heat and zing, but "Divas" is conceived so unambitiously and executed so indifferently that you can immediately put your brain into neutral and wait for the occasional steamy performance scenes. Aside from the four singers' mysteriously financed costumes, "Divas" doesn't even have the gusto or trashiness of a "Melrose Place."

The music business is currently being energized by performers, producers and executives who have brought street smarts and sounds to the charts, becoming major players in the process. So the world of young aspirants to R&B; stardom is a potentially fertile setting for genuine drama and action.

But there's no flavor of the street in this Seattle-set series pilot, which centers on songwriter-manager Monte (Khalil Kain) and his efforts to get his temperamental foursome on track.

We don't see much of the toil of creation either. Between butting heads with his crusty dad and wooing the new singer in the group, Monte somehow comes up with amazingly professional, state-of-the-art R&B; productions, which his singers execute at a local nightclub with enough sizzle to cure a clinically depressed mom (Chuck Cymone is credited as the music's producer).

Monte, who also butts heads with a couple of bad guys while the girls butt heads with men, is a nice guy, but is way too bland to hold the center. At this melodrama level, no one is urged to rise far enough above stereotype to become a real character.

Note: "Purple Rain"-style motorcycle rides are much less sexy now that mandatory helmet laws are in effect.

* "Divas" airs at 8 tonight on Fox (Channel 11).

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