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'Scoundrels': Pallid remake of New Zealand series

THE SHOW  "Scoundrels"

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Wolf West (David James Elliott) is a devoted father and husband with one little flaw - he's a crook. He has a nice, loving family with one little flaw - they're all crooks, too. The law finally catches up with Wolf and he's arrested by Sgt. Mack (Carlos Bernard) and sentenced to five years, which means all the little Wests and Momma West now have to fend for themselves.

His wife, Cheryl (Virginia Madsen), is worried. Her daughter Hope (Vanessa Marano) has skipped school for years; her other daughter, Heather (Leven Rambin), is modeling for some lowlife; her son Cal (Patrick Flueger) is a petty thief with not a lot of brain power (at least his twin brother, Logan, just passed the bar). Cheryl finally makes a decision: Everyone is gonna have to get a real job.

MY SAY "Scoundrels" actually got some God-given notoriety earlier this year when Neal McDonough - originally cast as Wolf - got canned just as production got under way because he refused to do sex scenes with Madsen (there's a very brief nongraphic one Sunday), citing his staunch Catholicism. That seemed a stretch to some observers, because even the tiniest bit of research by McDonough would have revealed that the series this is based on - the New Zealand hit, "Outrageous Fortune" - is only about sex. So, why did McDonough really get himself fired? My theory: He knew this was a stinker when the cameras started rolling. If true, congratulations, Mr. McDonough, on your critical acumen. Why ABC thought the world needed a remake of raunchy violent "Outrageous" - this is the second attempt (the first one with Catherine O'Hara never aired) - is a mystery. Based on Sunday's episode, it's also a mistake.

BOTTOM LINE Bland, with no pop or energy, "Scoundrels" limps sadly along. Eight weeks - the scheduled run - will feel like eight months if the pilot is any indication.


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