Otherworldly New Shows

For those interested in alternative cosmologies, four new shows shift the order of things:

Fox's Brimstone, starring Peter Horton, has a theologically muddled if simplistic premise: a basically good man goes to hell for a single lapse where the devil offers him redemption in exchange for recapturing 113 escaped demons. The man's struggle, however, is an unequivocal fight between good and evil with a strong visual and stylistic debt to "The X-Files." Interesting writing and some good performances.

In the WB's Charmed, featuring Shannen Doherty's series return, the silly writing and wooden performances alone could turn you to stone. Not even the heavy load of special effects could bring you back.

ABC's Cupid is a quirkier comedy-drama drawing on mythology. Cupid is on probation, to be welcomed back on Mt. Olympus only after he's matched 100 pairs of mortals. The chemistry between the leads is enjoyable, although the show could easily degenerate into a match-of-the-week formula.

ABC's Fantasy Island is a darker, tattoo-less update headlined by the always watchable British import Malcolm McDowell. People confront their own fears and shortcomings in a fabulous setting accompanied by state-of-the-art special effects and the clipped diction of host McDowell. It could be lots of fun if the promise of the pilot develops.

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