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Stylish ‘Prey’ Hunts for New Species, Plots

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

The new ABC series “Prey” strives hard for the inky, mysterious, foreboding sci-fi noir look and tone of a major hit on rival Fox. You know this isn’t “The X-Files,” though, when a scene pops up with Dr. Sloan Parker--the brilliant, all-business DNA scientist investigating a new species of human created by global warming--in jeopardy in her underwear.

There isn’t much to recommend in the first two episodes for those who want more from a series than the DNA of youth and good looks and a script with circular dialogue, cliches and telegraphed shocks. Style? Yes. Plots to chew on? See ya later.

Sloan (Debra Messing) is paired in the lab with hunky medical researcher Dr. Ed Tate (Vincent Ventresca), who is told by an admirer that he is more like a lifeguard than a scientist. Exactly.

Sloan’s main partner in the field appears to be Tom Daniels (Adam Storke), who initially poses as an FBI agent to hide his real identity. He’s one of the new species himself, but a good-hearted one. His menacing, new-species, human look-alike, evil counterpart is Randall Lynch (Roger Howarth). And, we’re told, there are “others.”

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The second episode, in fact, climaxes with dueling “others.” Meanwhile, there’s a skeptical, slow-to-get-it cop (Frankie Faison) who is enlightened by Sloan, and a murky lab boss (Larry Drake) who may be up to no good or may not be. Maybe he’s an “other.” Maybe not. Maybe Ed really is a lifeguard. Maybe not. It’s the suspense that keeps you watching.

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* “Prey” premieres at 8 tonight on ABC (Channel 7). The network has rated it TV-PG-V (may not be suitable for young children; contains moderate violence).


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