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Wincing at the Future in ‘Jeremiah’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here’s the premise for the new Showtime series, “Jeremiah”:

It’s been 15 years since a mysterious, devastating plague known as the Big Death hit Earth, killing billions while sparing only those under the age of puberty to make their way on a bleak, lawless planet that is now a desolate scrap heap. No food to speak of, no electricity, no security, no fun, no Britney Spears. Pretty grim, huh?

If you think this virus is deadly, though, try watching the two-hour premiere.

Based on a comic series by Belgian Hermann Huppen and created by J. Michael Straczynski, “Jeremiah” has Luke Perry as a beacon of humanity in a futuristic society gone darkly over the edge, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as his amiable pal, Kurdy. Jeremiah is a tough, courageous, independent, visionary loner who keeps alive memories of his dead father, in contrast to the less idealistic, less intense Kurdy.

Prior to relocating to their regular Friday night time slot, Jeremiah and Purdy on Sunday clash with the notorious Theo (Kim Hawthorne), a bossy gangbanger who, despite being scrawny, somehow imposes her will through terror.

Why do all these big, ugly thugs tremble at the sight of her? Because she is demonically, mercilessly, brutally, sadistically ... sexy. You’ll wince and hide your eyes when she has some guy tied up, stands in front of him in her micro-mini and snarls while lecturing him on what it’s like for a girl to reach puberty and have no one to, you know, have some fun with. Talk about torture.

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Later, Jeremiah and Kurdy encounter a group of neo-Nazi skinheads who plan to kill “racial inferiors,” then link up with an enlightened society living in an oasis of luxury while everyone on the outside suffers.

Perhaps the regular series will improve. “Jeremiah” begins, however, as a slow-moving, ungainly morality tale encumbered by bad acting and a lead in Perry who is un-magnetic and unpersuasive.

All of it adds up to a long night that feels like the Big Death.

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“Jeremiah” premieres Sunday night at 8 on Showtime and will seen regularly on Friday nights. The network has rated it TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under 14).


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