'Murderous Visions' is murky and sick


Let's see now, so far this week we have seen the story of a girl manipulated by her dad to kill her stepmother (the Sunday/Monday NBC miniseries "Love, Lies and Murder") and the tale of a serial rapist (CBS' Tuesday movie, "Sins of the Mother").

Tonight there's a new "Columbo" murder mystery (at 9, Channel 13), and on cable a TV movie about a crazed killer who slices off the faces of his victims and keeps them, like Eleanor Rigby, in jars.

Yes, folks, that's entertainment!

Just why our culture spends leisure time watching the sickest, most violent specimen among us is a disturbing question worthy of psychological study. But one thing not worth much time is "Murderous Visions," the latest new movie on the USA basic-cable service tonight (at 9).

Bruce Boxleitner stars as a detective who gets involved with a psychic to find a killer. The murderer removes his victims' faces, for reasons that have something to do with his flunking out of medical school and working for a loony plastic surgeon -- at least, that's as close as viewers may get to figuring it out, for the movie's motives are murky at best.

Indeed, the film seems to swing wildly like a pendulum (in fact, a pendulum plays a role in the action) between several cookie-cutter kinds of movies. There's the renegade cop (the impetuous Boxleitner is stuck on the missing persons beat), the buddy-cop (his black partner is instrumental to the action) and the supernatural cop (he switches from skeptic to true believer in ESP).

Laura Johnson is the psychic who sees things that may or may not add up to the identity of the homicidal maniac. Of course, her inability to see herself ending up in the clutches of the killer gives psychics a bad rep.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE -- A new edition of Maryland Public Television's own comedy repertory show, "Crabs," is on at 9:30 tonight (channels 22 and 67), after satirist Mark Russell's latest outing on PBS at 9.

The local production is a typical "Crabs" soup, with an even dozen skits offering an uneven level of laughs. Media Monitor's favorite is a bit on the "William Shatner School of Acting," with Wes Johnson doing a broad takeoff on the histrionic star of "Star Trek."

ONE MORE TIME -- Blame it on typing gremlins: An attempt here yesterday to correct a channel reference for Comcast Cablevision's new five-minute interviews with congressional figures went further awry than the original error. The spots are actually airing multiple times daily on Channel 10, which is CNN's Headline News.

In addition, we have learned that Harford County's Comcast system has also begun airing the local cut-ins to Headline News, carried on Channel 6.

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