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ON THE TUBE

It's hard to know what it says about the intelligence of the average Western New York viewer, but Pamela Anderson Lee hasn't been able to get arrested here.

Her action-adventure-humor series "V.I.P." is the hottest thing in syndication, last year's No. 1 drama. But it did poorly on WB 49 and this season has moved to 4 p.m. Saturday. It really belongs somewhere on late-night TV, where dumb is good.

Lee's failure to score here hasn't deterred Channel 4 from carrying a syndicated action-adventure series, "Relic Hunter" (12:35 a.m. Saturday), featuring another statuesque star, Tia Carrere ("Wayne's World," "True Lies").

Lee and Carrere face an uphill battle in a market that has rarely embraced syndicated dramas. "Hercules," "Xena" and even "Baywatch" never muscled their way into Western New Yorkers' hearts to the same degree as they did with national and international audiences.

These shows really are designed for the European viewer, who doesn't view the reduction of violence on American network television as progress.

To her credit, co-executive producer Lee doesn't take herself seriously. She doesn't have David E. Kelley to make her look good, but her writers have smartly poked fun at her expense in a series that doesn't aspire to do anything but offer light entertainment.

Lee stars as Vallery Irons, who came to Southern California looking to act. However, through some unusual circumstances explained in the stylish opening credits, she becomes the figurehead of an elite bodyguard agency called Vallery Irons Protection, or V.I.P.

Vallery doesn't know what she is doing but has a staff to protect her secret. While she runs around in colorful outfits or sits around reading such classics as Open Toe magazine, her staff is out there kicking up a storm.

Molly Culver, an ex-model, plays Tasha Dexter, an experienced bodyguard and former spy who can do everything that clients think Val can do. Natalie

Raitano is Nikki Franco, a weapons expert with a killer tongue. Leah Lail is Kay Simmons, a computer expert who doesn't realize she's a babe, too. Shaun Baker is Quick Williams, a martial arts expert who is Val's protector.

In last week's entertainingly silly season premiere, Val was hired to protect a Norwegian who hired someone to hypnotize Tasha into killing a Swedish adversary. Or was it the other way around? It doesn't really matter.

"It is an honor to meet someone of your dignitariness," Val told the foreigner who hired her. Then she proceeded to do a little name-dropping. "Let me wrap this up, because I have to meet Erik Estrada in 20 minutes," she said.

You don't tune into this show for the dialogue. And the plot really is an excuse for plenty of martial arts action, swimsuit scenes, car chases and celebrity cameos.

The appearance of Donny and Marie Osmond in the pilot was inspired casting. Tasha received a message via their talk show that turned her into an assassin. The idea that there are hidden messages on Donny and Marie's syndicated show was a hoot. They weren't the only B-list celebrities to show up. Estrada did, too. What, you expected Sandra Bullock (who actually is on Fox's "Action" tonight)?

To get Lee and Culver into more bathing suit scenes, the producers have moved the V.I.P. headquarters so close to the beach, you might think they'd run into David Hasselhoff.

"V.I.P." is everything you'd expect from the No. 1 drama in syndication -- loud, silly, sexy, violent and a guilty pleasure.

Best of all, it doesn't doesn't have to be watched in its entirety. You can skip over at halftime of a football game, watch for 20 minutes and get your Pamela fix.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

Now on to Tia Carrere, who stars as history professor Sydney Fox in "Relic Hunter." In last week's premiere, her new British assistant, Nigel Bailey (Christien Anholt), met this Foxy lady as she was dancing in a straw skirt and carrying a spear in front of her Trinity College class. "The most important thing is to get students excited and hungry for more," she explained to Nigel shortly after changing in front of him. In her underwear.

The first scene was as sexy, fun and interesting as "Relic" got.

After exciting the TV viewer, Professor Fox and Nigel were sent on a mission to Nepal to find a priceless Buddhist bowl before her goofy nemesis (Tony Rosato) could use it for personal gain. Indiana Jones this is not.

Rosato called Fox "sweet cheeks" several times in the hour. The professor wouldn't allow Nigel to learn where she got the title until the very end. But the wait wasn't worth it. It seems she was bitten on the behind 20 times and marmalade had to be spread on her to soften the sting. There is a lesson there, I suppose. And this show believes in lessons.

At the end, the Buddhist owner of the bowl offered it to a young man who has fiscally destroyed his father's business. But the poor chap discovered that the bowl is worthless under such circumstances.

"Perhaps you need to face up to the truth of your actions," explained the Buddhist holding the bowl.

The truth is that despite Carrere's presence, "Relic Hunter" is about as exciting as visiting an antique store. It certainly isn't as much dumb fun as Lee's series. And at 12:35 in the morning, having fun is preferable to getting messages.

Rating: 2 stars.

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