Glistening beaches, crystal blue water, Diamond Head in the background, Waikiki Beach in the fore; if those hints weren’t enough, there’s some hokey hula music playing overhead and the word “Hawaii” at the bottom of the screen. A slender bikini-clad beauty turns around and gazes at the young stud in her bed. They kiss. They gaze into each other’s eyes. “It just can’t end,” she sighs. “We don’t have much time,” he replies. Before they sink beneath the sheets, she coos coyly, “So why are we wasting it?” My sentiments exactly. I was less than ten minutes into Aaron Spelling’s new primetime drama, NBC’s Titans, and already I had a bad feeling.
When I first heard about the show, I was enthused. Having said goodbye to Beverly Hills, 90210, I faced a TV season that appeared to be lacking in the cheesy “drama” category. In lieu of a 90210 replacement, I was still hoping for something like the grand scale melodramas I watched as a child: Dynasty, The Colbys, Dallas, and Falcon Crest. You know, sweeping orchestral scores atop images of the rich and beautiful, heated discussions of incomprehensible business ventures, glittering diamonds and top-of-the-line designer gowns, and of course, the cat-fights between the new wife and the bitchy ex-wife, the good girlfriend and the trampy lover, the daughter and the new stepmother. Is this too much to ask for? Apparently so.
Titans opens with lovers Heather (Yasmine Bleeth) and Chandler (Casper Van Dien) professing their love for each other, just as he is set to leave on Navy fighter pilot duty. He waits for her at the airport but she never shows. Two months later, he returns home from Kosovo, just in time for his father’s wedding. As Chandler explains to his mother, Gwen (Victoria Principal, looking very beautiful in a cream-colored sweater-over-the-shoulder outfit), he heard about the nuptials in a telegram he received from his daddy, Richard (Perry King). “Getting married. Stop. Come home for the wedding. Stop.” (Stop. Mmmm… Is that an option, I wonder, my hand resting precariously on the remote control.) Coming home is a chore for Chandler in a number of ways: for one thing, Mom and Dad live across the street from one another. For another, as Chandler soon learns, Richard is marrying Heather, Chandler’s own long-lost love. When Chandler confronts her, she sighs and explains, “I love him,” but I’m not sure she means it. Chandler responds that they loved each other in Hawaii. She sighs (again), “You and I, we had one week. Your father and I have a whole lifetime together.” Yugh.
While it has many requisite elements of a successful primetime soap opera, Titans is definitely nowhere near the caliber of Spelling’s Dynasty and Colbys. Even the credits sequence is sub-par: rather than a grandiose musical score and characters descending wide stairways, the credits sequence features head shots of the Titans cast set against a rather tinny, electronic-sounding, squeaky-voiced version of the Sneaker Pimps’ “6 Underground,” a choice not quite as annoying as Paula Cole’s now thoroughly overplayed “I Don’t Want To Wait” from Dawson’s Creek, but destined to grate on the nerves after a few episodes. From here, the plot is predictable: there is an all-important wealthy business family living amongst secrets waiting to be revealed, illegitimate children, divorce and ex-spouses, alcoholism, jealous siblings vying for parental approval, forbidden love, and the token Hispanic housekeeper, or in the case of Titans, Samantha Sanchez (Lourdes Benedicto), the daughter of the former Hispanic housekeeper (we aren’t told what happened to her) who has gone on to earn her degree from Brown and has returned to “oversee” the business and the household, but who, in case you were wondering, doesn’t “wash the dishes.”
In all honesty, I will not be following the antics of the Williams clan (even their name is pedestrian, compared to, say “Colbys” or “Carringtons”). The main obstacle in Titans, and it’s hard to choose only one, is its lazy plotting. For example, in devious bitch-fashion, Laurie (Josie Davis) confronts her sister Jennie’s (Elizabeth Bogush) boyfriend, telling him she “knows something about him that no one else knows”, but before any intrigue can build, we’re told he’s married. Or, we’re introduced to the family business, Williams Global Enterprises, are told it has an “aviation division” that does “design and engineering,” but no hint concerning the hopefully illegal/manipulative/conniving wheeling-and-dealings that go on behind office doors (perhaps the writers are saving that for the second episode). Or once more, we’re granted a brief look into the married/divorced life of Richard and Gwen, but when Richard mentions his “one mistake,” Gwen hushes him, “Don’t go there, Richard.” (Please, go there!)
In lieu of plot, Titans is chock-full of really horrendous dialogue. Mom to daughters: “Your dresses are so pretty”; ex-husband to ex-wife: “We’re the most civilized divorced couple on earth”; brother to naked step-mom-to-be after she dives into the pool and invites him in: “I don’t swim with sharks”; and (my favorite): aforementioned brother to Hispanic girl: “I was just noticing the way the light catches your eyes.” Van Dien appears mostly perplexed, like maybe he’s just concentrating on his next line. Titans is also plagued by too many recycled themes—and stars. Apart from Benedicto, all cast members have appeared on at least one soap opera (daytime and primetime) during their acting careers. Familiar faces include Principal (Dallas), King (Melrose Place), Davis (90210), Jason George (Sunset Beach), Van Dien (90210 and One Life to Live), and soon-to-be-introduced Uncle Jack, Jack Wagner (General Hospital, Santa Barbara, and Melrose Place). Throw in the Pulse Club (a 90210 Peach Pit After Dark lookalike), a yacht love nest (reminiscent of Noah’s boat, also on 90210), and the Beverly Canyon Apartments (just like the apartment building on Melrose Place, only with double gates, more palm trees, and a much larger swimming pool) and it all starts to get confusing.
Mr. Spelling, didn’t Models, Inc. and Malibu Shores teach you anything? I admit, I’m a Survivor junkie, left hungry for manipulating, back-stabbing, and forbidden romancing (okay, so there weren’t any confirmed jungle encounters, but they were implied…). I thought for sure Titans would offer at least this much. I was mistaken. Guess I’ll stick to Dawson’s Creek. I may be a little old for the teenage drama, but at least the complex sentences and developed plots don’t insult my intelligence.