(Sun., 8 p.m. ET)
His name’s been on them all: E.T., Jaws, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters. Because he’s Steven Spielberg, we expect the best. Following your own tough act can be a curse. But it also can be a blessing, if your reputation buys you a second chance when you stumble. So because he’s Steven Spielberg, I gave him that second chance, plus a third, a fourth and a fifth. I watched the first of his alleged Amazing Stories and thought it was a fluke of a flop. It had to be. Spielberg was the Creator! So I waited and watched four more. It was no fluke. Amazing Stories is one of the worst disappointments I’ve ever had watching TV. Every show has been a one-note ditty: the kid who travels in time at the Alamo; the kid who’s turned magnetic by a meteor. They’re cute ideas, many of them credited to Spielberg. But the scripts built around these plotettes show a shocking shortage of imagination. Example: An actor dressed as a mummy runs off when his wife goes into labor; rube locals think he’s a real mummy and hunt him down; then the actor gets to the hospital just in time and—yes, folks—the mummy is a daddy. The gag is so obvious it’s in the title of the episode, Mummy Daddy. So there is no surprise in this story, in execution or ending. And that’s a sin. The least we should expect from a series named Amazing Stories and a man named Spielberg is surprise. I’ve seen prairie interstates with more twists and turns than any of these episodes. But there’s a worse sin here: In every one of these Amazing Stories, I can practically see the writers, directors and producers behind the scenes shrugging and saying, “It’s only TV.” It’s as if Spielberg, Inc. believes that one idea—one note—is enough for a little TV show. That’s lazy. Worse, that’s insulting to you and me, TV viewers. Now it’s true, if anyone else had created Amazing Stories, I would have called the series merely mediocre. The production values are undeniably first rate, but I expected more from Spielberg than good camera work. I expected adventure, an effort to create something exciting on TV. If he’d tried and failed at that, I still would have cheered. But he didn’t try and that’s the waste. The result is only average.