'Black Sash' may have chops, but 'The Pitts' keeps missing

Times Staff Writer

With the baseball season opening Sunday, it seems only fitting for the networks to be trotting out a couple of pinch-hitters that night.

The martial arts drama "Black Sash" makes its debut on the WB at 9 p.m., and the family sitcom "The Pitts" premieres on Fox at 9:30. Neither show is a cinch to join its network's permanent prime-time lineup, but based on the merits of the two pilots, "Black Sash" looks like the more promising, less painful to watch prospect.

A breezy blend of choreographed combat, fortune-cookie truisms and social advocacy, "Black Sash" plays like "Kung Fu" meets "The Guardian." The premiere lays out the show's unoriginal premise and also introduces us to its likable cast, headed by Russell Wong ("Romeo Must Die") and Mako ("Pearl Harbor").

Five years ago, undercover narcotics cop Tom Chang (Wong) was framed and wrongly imprisoned in Hong Kong, costing him his career, his marriage and the right to see his daughter. Intent on restoring his life and relationship with his estranged daughter (guest star Valerie Tian), Chang returns home to San Francisco to take over a martial arts school from his mentor, Master Li (Mako), and meets a group of teenage students who need his guidance.

Chang finds his hands full as angry Tory Stratton (Missy Peregrym) plots to find her father's killer, brooding Trip Brady (Corey Sevier) tries to defend himself against his abusive father (guest star Richard Tyson) and shy Allie Bennett (Sarah Carter) attempts to make a move on oblivious hipster Bryan Lanier (Ray J).

Creator-executive producer Robert Mark Kamen (author of the "Karate Kid" movies) wrote the episode, which was directed by James Marshall.

As with "Kung Fu," the dialogue can be enjoyed as camp, intended or not.

"The Pitts," meanwhile, clearly aims for campy fun, but it mostly misses.

Dylan Baker, the memorably creepy husband in the film "Happiness," stars as genial Bob Pitt, patriarch of the world's unluckiest family.

In the premiere, the family -- which has endured everything from lightning strikes to satanic possession -- is tested anew when Bob and Liz (Kellie Waymire) hire a nanny to look after their kids, 15-year-old Faith (Lizzy Caplan) and 12-year-old Petey (David Henrie).

As luck would have it, the nanny (guest star Melissa Peterson) turns out to be a psycho from Bob's past in search of revenge.

Creators Mike Scully and Julie Thacker-Scully wrote the episode, which was directed by Lee Shallat-Chemel.


Series premieres

What: "Black Sash"

Where: WB

When: 9 p.m., Sunday

Rating: TV-PG-LV (may be inappropriate for young children, with advisories for coarse language and violence).

What: "The Pitts"

Where: Fox

When: 9:30 p.m., Sunday

Rating: TV-PG-V (may be inappropriate for young children, with an advisory for violence).

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