By:Frederick C. Szebin
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000

Syndicated television's very own stud muffin, Lorenzo Lamas, has gotten another series. And for those of you who never watched his Renegade, here's another one for you to miss. This time around, our hunk finds himself as Rafe Cain, the titles' antiquarian, who has lived for four hundred years while hunting down the demons that killed his wife and took his five-year-old daughter. Rafe, you see, was originally a Scotsman (I'm not sure, but that's what the attempt at an accent sounds like) who became marooned in Japan some four centuries ago. He settles down, has a Japanese bride and a cute-as-the-dickens little Japanese daughter.

Life was just great until two black-clad riders on black horses road in through a CGI effect and did their dirty deed. In reaction to the loss of his family, Rafe makes his own sword and with tortured monk Goodwin (Steve Braun) at his side, long-haired Rafe promises the universe or something that he will spend eternity finding the demons who did this. With that oath, both Rafe and his new partner are made immortal seemingly by sheer force of will. Huh?

Flash to modern day L.A. where cute but strange Dr. Sara Beckman (April Telek), whose parents were possessed by demons when she was a child and wound up killing each other, has created what Rafe later calls a 'dog whistle for demons.' She gets herself surrounded by three glowing-eyed creepies and is saved by the leather-clad, ponytail-wearing Rafe, who proceeds to save the Doc by slicing at these guys. They then go through under-cranked convulsions and fall into a pit leading to The Bad Place. With Sara marked by the demons, Rafe and Goodwin take her under their wings just as the wife-killing demons Rafe has been hunting try to kill him, Goodwin and the doctor.

To get this engine running, the creators and producers took notes from the 'Been There Done That' school. Play 'Name The Rip Offs' as you're watching. It'll make the hour more entertaining. Right off the bat, there is Highlander. Then we're given that weird speed effect from The X-Files, and almost the entire genre of Hong Kong martial arts movie visuals, from running up a wall to multiple takes of the same action. They're all gutted and stuck onto this identity-less program.

The creators are dating themselves a little, too, because there is also a dab of David Carradine's 1970s show, Kung Fu. Specifically, Rafe is constantly, and rather annoyingly, flashing back to show how a current event relates to his existence 400 years ago. It's a needless and rather pointless dramatic tool. The only good it does is to give Robert Ito a job as Rafe's 17th Century mentor.

For his part, Lamas is still sporting the tough guy in leather, shades and fashionably long hair look that made Renegade so memorable to so many. At least the manicured stubble look has been aced. But this offspring of Fernando Lamas' and Esther Williams' (nice gene pool, you gotta admit) loins poses almost as much as Wesley Snipes in Blade. But let's be fair; nobody poses as much as Wesley Snipes in Blade.

For this kind of show, the acting is serviceable. Braun, as the eternal teen Goodwin, is very appealing. And, it must be admitted, Lamas has a way of playing the tortured hero type, even if he looks way too manicured to take seriously. Telek is pretty as the not-so-mad doctor searching out demons where ever they might hide. She has no problem accepting Rafe's story about his immortality. And that's handy. But it's all story material we the audience have been told, so a lot of the dialogue seems poised to keep the thick heads amongst us informed, as though the overall plot were too confusing for the average viewer. It isn't complicated at all, and not very exciting either.

It's the same old stuff in a plain wrapper, sticky from all the better ideas that have passed this way before. While there is some nice CGI, and the sword fights are well-choreographed, the whole package is strangely uninvolving. Some of the pieces are just fine, but the whole is like a deflated cake; it just isn't as tasty as it could have been.

Check your local listings if you must. Or just remember your favorite episode of Highlander. Or Kung Fu. Or any Hong Kong martial arts movies you may have seen. Any of those will offer far more entertainment than what is being offered here under the rather generic title, The Immortal.