HBO (Sunday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m. ET)
Imagine Howard Cosell or Curt Gowdy going to Moscow to cover sporting events, meeting a scientist, receiving vague secrets that seem to put the fate of the Western world in his hands, getting framed and tortured by the KGB and ending up in Siberia. There you have the preposterous premise for Gulag, cable’s latest not-ready-for-prime-time movie. The sportscaster turned instant spy, played by David (An Officer and a Gentleman) Keith, falls for this line from an undercover KGB scientist: “If you help me get a story in Western media, I help you win Nobel Prize.” What Keith wins is 10 years in the gulag, where he meets Malcolm (Caligula) McDowell, a British spy who helps him escape in a Zhivagoesque trek across too many tedious miles of tundra. After the beginning, the movie forgets about Keith’s wife and powerful network producers, who seem to be doing nothing to get him out. That’s one of many plot points that make no sense. Keith talks about life in the gulag as if he were writing a postcard from a Club Med; he displays all the acting animation of Lenin in his tomb. And McDowell comes off as psychotic as Stalin. Amidst all this, cable somehow manages to sneak in its requisite naked female body. Betcha can’t guess how.