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Two ways to save time in the evening

By ERIC DEGGANS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001


I know what you're planning.

You've seen the ads and the snide newspaper articles about UPN's Chains of Love debuting at 8 p.m. Tuesday on WTOG-Ch. 44. You know it's the most ridiculous premise on television: four people chained for four days to a member of the opposite sex who releases them, one by one, until a final soulmate is left.

And you're going to watch it anyway.

It's the train wreck factor -- you just have to look. You're enticed by commercials showing four shapely women and a guy, clad only in bathing suits, in a hot tub.

Later, when you realize how you've been had, you'll never come back -- but the show will get enough initial viewership to live on for weeks.

But let's end this now. I'm going to tell you everything you need to know about this show so you don't have to waste an hour of your life (This is why I really get paid: to watch the bad stuff).

The show opens with self-involved Hollywood stuntman Andy Dylan. (Of course, the first episode involves a guy chained to four women; this is UPN, the home of WWF Smackdown! and Star Trek. You want gender sensitivity, click over to Lifetime, pal).

Dylan -- occupying the role known as "the Picker" or "the Link" -- is chained to four beautiful women who seem way too smart for this gig. There's Amy, a sensitive, focused sales executive; Nicki, a well-cut bisexual bodybuilder; Vanessa, an outspoken, piano-playing intellectual; and Kerstin, the confrontational dancer who likes extreme sports.

They're all linked in chains that bind one wrist and the opposing leg. We see that everybody gets a little bathroom time in the morning for showers and such, though we have no idea how they handle midday bathroom breaks (or changing for the hot tub).

Periodically, a guy who looks like a sunglasses-wearing extra from a Steven Segal movie shows up for the "release." Dylan will choose how much cash from a pool of $10,000 to give the jilted lady. (Of course, Mr. Self Involved gets to keep whatever money remains, so guess how little he peels off for the also-rans?)

You'll want to hand each of these women at least $1-million for enduring what is the modern woman's ultimate nightmare: being chained to a guy who thinks the world revolves around him.

"I have less faith that something you're going to say is actually important," he tells sensitive Amy at one point, explaining why he always interrupts her (She cries.). "Take the $100 . . . go to a bookstore and find a book on how to release some control," he tells another, handing her a total $150 just as she's being released ("That was pretty much the sh--iest thing anyone's ever said to me," she confided afterward.)

The most bizarre aspect of this exercise -- besides the S&M overtones, of course -- is the fact that viewers learn so much more about the Picker than the Pickees. And what we learn in this debut episode is that Dylan is a Grade A jerk.

If you're still determined to tune in, I'll leave you some surprise and won't reveal which woman ends up with Dylan. (I will say he later tried to date the last two women he released, cementing his status as the ultimate jerk. Thank goodness, they declined.)

But don't bother complaining about the declining state of modern television. Because watching this stuff only contributes to it.

* * *

While I'm saving you from hideous television, let's tackle UPN's new show All Souls, debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday on WTOG-Ch. 44. It's a confused hodgepodge of movie ripoffs centered on young doctors fighting evil within a haunted hospital. And it's horrible. Awful. Petrifyingly confusing and pointless. So bad, it's not worth the space to tell you why it's so bad.

Now I feel I've earned my paycheck.

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