July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

TNT (Sun.-Mon., July 15-16, 8 p.m. ET)

Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot? Fie on that mundane miniseries of March. This extravagant summer saga brings you Viviane (Anjelica Huston), Morgaine (Julianna Margulies), Morgause (Joan Allen) and Gwenhwyfar (Samantha Mathis)—women of the Arthurian legend as reworked in the 1982 novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley. If swordplay, sorcery and sex are your cup of mead, by no means should you miss The Mists of Avalon. But if you’re cursed with an irreverent turn of mind, you may be unable to maintain a straight visage through all four knightly hours.

Each of the drama’s two parts offers a fertility-rite scene rich in unintentional humor. In the first, torches blaze and drums thunder as pagan priestess-in-training Morgaine loses herself in the “virgin huntress” role and couples fulfillingly with a young stud in a stag-head mask. But the mystery male turns out to be her half-brother Arthur (Edward Atterton), the future king of Round Table fame. Oh, incestuous abomination! In the second, Arthur invites Sir Lancelot (Michael Vartan) into the royal bed for a ridiculously solemn act of three-way sex with Queen Gwenhwyfar (spelled Guinevere in other versions), who has failed to conceive an heir by more conventional means. Hey, anything for Britain.

Huston and Allen are underemployed as the high priestess of Avalon and her evil sister. But the emotional range of ex-ER nurse Margulies is not to be snickered at.

Bottom Line: Lavish if less than legendary

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