'Scream Team' unoriginal, trite

Is it Halloween movie season already? The Disney Channel jumps the gun with "The Scream Team" (7 p.m.) starring Eric Idle ("Monty Python"), Kathy Najimy ("King of the Hill") and Tommy Davidson ("In Living Color").

"Scream" begins as teens Ian (Mark Rendell) and Claire Carlyle (Kat Dennings) accompany their dad (Robert Bockstael) to the quaint New England town of Steeple Falls for the funeral of their beloved grandfather, Frank (Gary Reineke). Along the way, the kids are reacquainted with Grandpa's taste for oddball inventions and Steeple Falls' spooky reputation. Every Halloween the town celebrates the legend of its most notorious citizen, Zachariah Kull, an 18th-century loner with a taste for arson who was burned at the stake after torching his own house with his wife trapped inside.

Ian and Claire soon discover that Steeple Falls has far creepier secrets than old Zachariah Kull. The town resides over a portal to the afterlife, a posh waiting room managed by ghostly Mariah (Najimy) with sputtering incompetence. Jumper (Davidson) and Coffin Ed (Idle) are her two spectral helpers, goofy go-fers who act as tour guides and escorts for recently departed souls.

Clearly inspired by "Ghostbusters" and "Beetlejuice," the "Scream Team" leavens its macabre story with jokey bravado. But while smart-alecky dialogue worked well in those adult comedies, it seems both annoying and inappropriate in this kiddy shocker. Both Ian and Claire speak with the brash and irreverent "wit" that has become the bane of most children's programming. For example, while mourning her grandfather, Claire complains about unwanted hugs from overweight relatives. "Why do adults use funerals as an excuse to violate my personal space?" she wonders. While this film has been rated as appropriate for young audiences, some parents may be concerned about its flippant treatment of dark themes. Others may simply recoil from its trite characters, contrived plot and annoying dialogue.

� "Providence" (7 p.m., NBC) opens its fifth season with Syd (Melina Kanakaredes) still reeling from the fire that destroyed her clinic, and surprised by an-out-of-the-blue proposal from Owen (George Newbern). While this family-friendly drama has never been a ratings champion, it may well be the most imitated show of the last half-decade. Its story line � about a pretty professional woman who returns to her New England home city to pick up a relationship with a widowed parent � has been all but stolen by both "Judging Amy" and "Crossing Jordan." It's sunny take on hometown life has been echoed in many newer dramas, including "Ed," "Gilmore Girls" and "Everwood." And Syd had deep hallucinatory conversations with her dead mother long before long chats with dead dad became a staple on "Six Feet Under."

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a return to the Jon-Benet Ramsey case.

� Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones star in the 1994 thriller "Blown Away" (7 p.m., UPN).

� Scheduled on "Dateline" (8 p.m., NBC): a teenage bone marrow donor saves a journalist's life.

� John undergoes radical therapy on "John Doe" (8 p.m., Fox).

� Cole investigates possible gang involvement in a bloody cop shooting on "Robbery Homicide Division" (9 p.m., CBS)

� Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks") guest stars as an actress accused of very inappropriate behavior on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

� "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): the mysterious disappearance of an NBA star; an interview with Hugh Downs.

� A greedy wife tries to use an earthquake to disguise a murder on "Monk" (9 p.m., USA).

� Movie directors and video producers explore the intersection of film and music on "Sonic Cinema" (10 p.m., Sundance)


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