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Soap duds? MyNetworkTV lathers up anew

Your TV probably hasn't found MyNetworkTV yet. For the most part, neither has mine. Still, the fledging, Fox-owned enterprise is slogging forward with two more English language telenovelas after Desire and Fashion House pooped out as scheduled Tuesday night.

The idea is to foment foamy, cost-efficient, serial entertainment that runs non-stop five days a week for a 65-episode arc. It doesn't have to do a big rating to be profitable. And so far the ratings have been teenier than a teacup bra or Paris Hilton's book collection. Choose one.

The better of the two newcomers -- OK, the less worse -- is Wicked Wicked Games (premiering Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. central on KDFI/Ch. 27 in Dallas-Forth, puff-puff). It stars a shot-through-gauze Tatum O'Neal as cackling avenger Blythe Spencer. In an upcoming episode she'll declare, "I will smack that smirk right off of your face!"

In the first episode she mostly plots the ruin of race track owner Theodore Crawford (Clive Robertson), who had the temerity to dump her 25 years ago. Her vassal is Cain-like twin son Aaron (Jack Krizmanich), who's sent to infiltrate Crawford's empire.

"I want Theodore Crawford's head stuffed and mounted on my wall," mom instructs.

Aaron, disguised as Daniel Karol, quickly seduces Theo's babe-alicious daughter, Brooke Crawford (Kate French), first seen on the beach in considerable splendor. French, who's making her TV acting debut, has a resume that perfectly suits the demands of this role. She's a model, both of her parents were models and her step-father is a fashion photographer. All that's required of her is to look good. This she knows how to do.

Also in the mix is Able-like Josh Spencer (David Smith), a goodly ER doctor who's duped into being Aaron's stooge. The apple of his eye is Theo Crawford's oldest daughter, Emma (Jessie Ward), who's a "sucker for classic literature," namely Hawthorne. Are we having fun yet?

O'Neal, who's a long, long way from that 1973 Oscar for Paper Moon, has a big, broad go of it, particular when talking to herself on a computer cam. But there's some class afoot. Robertson, as Theo, is a classically trained British thespian with a degree from the Oxford School of Business. His acting in Wicked, Wicked Games actually is pretty wicked good. One wonders how it came to this for him, but maybe he'll get noticed and eventually be sent up to the big leagues.

MyNetworkTV also is offering Watch Over Me, which follows at 8 p.m. central. Little me watched the first episode. It beat a poke in the eye, but in a photo finish.

The hero here is jaunty Jack Porter (Todd Cahoon), an ex-Special Forces operative who's now driving a cab. He's still haunted by the death of the only woman he ever loved. But Jack soon meets Julia Rivera (Dayanara Torres), the well-kept fiancee of ruthless tycoon Michael Krieger (Marc Menard).

"I felt something today between us, and you did, too," he tells Julia.

Snore, Jack eventually becomes Michael's bodyguard after saving his daughter from a kidnapping in a terribly choreographed action scene. This sets up a triangle, with Jack spread-eagled between his duties and his desires. Dynasty vet Catherine Oxenberg and her real-life husband, Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) co-star as Michael's chief aide and "top assassin."

Both melodramas will be going against mostly reruns in December. Then again, America at large is going to be otherwise occupied with various Christmas preparations and parties. Wicked Wicked Games at least has a little holiday punch to it, and a better promotional campaign, too. Says a pitchman, "Revenge is a dish best served -- crazy." Pass the ham.

Grades: Wicked Wicked Games -- C; Watch Over Me -- D