'Extreme' pretty, but empty-headed

"Extreme" is "Baywatch" with its clothes on. Or, maybe, "Melrose Place" doing outdoor rescue.

The search-and-rescue series, which joins ABC's schedule at 8 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2), features a bevy of great-looking twentysomethings set against a gorgeous backdrop of mountains, forests and canyons. Each week, a rock climber, biker or some other outdoor enthusiast gets in big trouble amid all that beauty. And, each week, it is up to the great-looking guys and gals of the Steep Mountain Rescue Team to save them.


This is TV for the eyes, not the mind. Most of the program consists of watching great-looking people rescue other great-looking people and then going to parties where they flirt with other great-looking people who are not their dates.

The father figure to this great-looking group -- and he's an exceptionally lax father figure -- is played by the great James Brolin, last seen on weekly television lurking around a hotel lobby as the big-brother figure in "Hotel."


Some viewers might find tonight's episode a little confusing. That's because it's not the pilot -- the episode that introduces everybody to viewers. ABC aired the pilot aired right after the Super Bowl in January, so that it could tell the world about its fabulous new series. Most of the world yawned and went to bed.

Tonight's premiere episode is about a world-class biker who wants to "shoot the drain" -- that translates to riding a mountain bike down an almost vertical wall of rock. In timeworn TV fashion, the world-class biker is also going to break the heart of one member of the rescue team, Andie McDermott, who is played by Julie Bowen.

Other cast members include the self-centered Lance Monroe (Justin Lazard), runaway heiress Sarah Bowen (Brooke Langton), and teen-age snowboarders Bones (Micah Dyer) and Skeeter (Danny Masterson). Bones and Skeeter are "Dumb and Dumber" in mountain boots. Did I mention that Bones is the younger brother of Sarah, the runaway heiress? I'm not sure why the younger brother came along with the heiress when she ran away, but there you are.

And there are more characters, yet, such as Kyle Hansen (Cameron Bancroft), "who is grieving over the tragic death of his fiancee," in ABC's words, and Farley Potts (Tom Wright), a helicopter pilot and Vietnam War veteran who is second-in-command to the great James Brolin.

Like "Baywatch," "Extreme" is a series that is, perhaps, meant to be watched with the sound off. It's all about visuals -- great scenery, great bods, lots of action. But every time the characters open their mouths, they seem to be crying, whining or uttering some of the dumbest dialogue since "Models, Inc."

I guess another silly series in prime time wouldn't bother me so much if it wasn't the show chosen by ABC to replace "My So-Called Life." Talk about peaks and valleys. We've gone from Angela Chase reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" to Skeeter and Bones flushing the drain. . . . Oops, I'm sorry, that's shooting the drain.