Nasty goings-on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 January, 1995, 12:00am

THE mini-series Stephen King's The Tommyknockers (Pearl, 9.30pm) continues tomorrow at the same time, so don't start it if you can't finish it. It is based on King's novel of the same name and concerns a small New England town which is overwhelmed by a mysterious force. Ironically the series was filmed entirely on location in New Zealand, where the beer is cheaper.

Jimmy Smits stars. He made his name in L.A. Law (showing, by amazing coincidence, on World tonight at 1.10am) and is about to make it again in NYPD Blue, the American cop series with street cred. He takes over from David Caruso, who wanted the kind of money the series' producers were unwilling to offer. He quit to pursue a film career.

The synopsis for The Tommyknockers blows a loud trumpet. Smits, it says, leads an all-star cast. Among the all-stars are people you will never have heard of. Remember John Ashton from Beverly Hills Cop ? Marg Helgenberger from China Beach ? Robert Carradine from Revenge Of The Nerds ? Allyce Beasley from Moonlighting ? Me neither.

This is not to say The Tommyknockers is a load of old knockers. There has never been anything wrong with a small cast. It was adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen, who also wrote the screenplay for Carrie, perhaps the most successful adaptation ever of a King book, and there have been many.

Smits plays James 'Gard' Gardener, a poet, activist and drunk. While away from home on a poetry reading tour he has nightmares about girlfriend Bobbi (Helgenberger) and hitch-hikes home to find out what's going on. As it turns out, there is something nasty going down. A mysterious force has been unleashed by an object long buried in the woods. One by one, every man, woman and child in the town develops powers far beyond those of ordinary mortals.

THERE is no escaping Mr King, not even in Macau, where Misery is showing on TDM Channel 1 at 10.35pm. Kathy Bates turns in an Oscar-winning performance as a psycho who reads romantic novels. James Caan is the author she holds hostage in her home. Watch out for the scenes with Caan's legs, memorably ripped-off by the British comics Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in their television series. Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally) directed.

THERE is an unpleasant smell about Caught On Camera (World, 10.45pm). It treats its audience to real events, many of them shocking, caught on video camera by people who just happened to be there at the time. The second part - it's a two-parter - airs next week.

IN Pearl Movie Watch (Pearl, 7.15pm) Gloria Wu and Geoff Wong get to grips with the origins of the wet T-shirt competition. What that has got to do with Pearl movies I cannot say. There are previews of the week's films (The Tommyknockers, Pacific Heights, Krull and The Prisoner of Zenda) and, in the Pearl Movie Club section, a feature about Threesome, a movie which stars Josh Charles, Lara Flynn Boyle and some more people you have probably never heard of.

A QUICK word about the new children's cartoon Biker Mice From Mars (Pearl, 5.30pm). It features teenage Martian mice and is said to be the hottest cartoon this side of the sun. The mice - Throttle, Modo and Vinnie - are waging war against the Plutarkians, but are doing so on Earth because their own planet was destroyed. This is children's television on amphetamines. Creator Rick Ungar, who came up with the idea over brunch at a fashionable Los Angeles deli, receives fan mail from children in 50 countries, about to become 51.