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`Snoops': Fun But It Needs Sharper Dialogue

TIM REID plays Chance Dennis, a criminology professor at Georgetown University. His real-life wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, plays on-camera spouse Micki Dennis, a protocol officer at the State Department. A highly romantic pair, the couple is constantly pulled apart by their dual careers and the series of whodunit plots that spill across their lives. Tracking amateur sleuths in a decidedly light mystery adventure series, ``Snoops'' is reminiscent of such movie serials as ``The Thin Man'' and ``Mr. and Mrs. North.'' ``Not to be presumptuous, but we are also after a Hitchcock, Frank Capra-ish feel,'' says Mr. Reid, star, co-creator, and executive producer (see adjoining interview). Adding to the mix will be a country-mouse/city mouse dichotomy between spouses: She is used to fancy parties and upper-class friends; he is far less sophisticated and is very shy.

In the ``Snoops'' season opener, a bright student in Chance's criminology class analyzed a four-year-old killing put on the back burner by police. After sticking his neck out too far and almost getting himself killed, the student dragged both teacher and spouse into the proceedings.

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In tonight's episode, Micki's father unexpectedly announces his plan to retire from the Pentagon. Micki and Chance turn to a family friend to find out why. When that friend is murdered at a shooting range, the investigation leads to the realization that Micki's father's premature retirement is related to a procurement scandal.

Reid's intent is to focus on positive human interaction as the two leads track through their plots, but early ``Snoops'' episodes have been criticized for carrying too much superficial banter. The couple is seen making dinner, sorting laundry, buying clothes, and eating hotdogs in none-too-innovative scenes only superficially related to plots. The characters are upbeat and pleasant enough, but so far have not been given sharp enough dialogue. Action still seems stiffly propped up to fit editing limitations.

Perhaps burned from last season's highly acclaimed ``Frank's Place,'' which won awards and critical kudos but not enough viewers, the ``Snoops'' creators have tried for a wide focus and appeal, but without yet finding their niche. Reid has promised more innovation once an audience is established. Producers are betting on more experimenting viewers in the early season weeks settling with ``Snoops'' on Fridays at 8.

Filling the romantic-family slot vacated by the popular ``Beauty and the Beast,'' Reid and company have their work cut out for them. So far, despite highly promising principals, the show has fallen short of its ideal.

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