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Undercover Fluff 

She Spies: The next big thing in action-syndication or mindless jiggle-junk? Or both?

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As David St. Hubbins once said, it’s a fine line between clever and stupid. Take She Spies (NBC; debuts Saturday, July 20, 9 p.m.), the new action-adventure series that stretches said line thinner than the butt-string of a thong bikini on Cancun. A candy-gloss combo of The A-Team, Charlie’s Angels and Ally McBeal, the high-camp espionage “dramedy” stars Natasha Henstridge (Species) as a master (and busted) con-woman leading a pair of equally skilled (and equally busted) bad girls on undercover missions for a covert good-guy arm of the government. Why? Like you even have to ask: The pouty trio were faced with the choice of playing along with The Man or being shipped off to women’s prison. While some suits were undoubtedly imagining the latter would make an even sexier show, the larcenous ladies decided to go straight.

Henstridge is the impossibly beautiful strategist, Kristen Miller is the impossibly gorgeous computer hacker, Natashia Williams is the impossibly exotic muscle and yet, despite it all, She Spies is not the absolute dumbest slice of action-TV cheesecake ever served up.

In 2000, UPN nearly ran with the series I Spike, starring Daisy Fuentes as the spandexed Navy Seal leader of a female FBI unit that works undercover as pro volleyball players—nearly, because even UPN knows when to say, “Dude, please.” Even better, in 1999, Martin Sheen (yes, Mr. President from The West Wing) played a U.N. secret agent bossing around swimsuit models/CIA operatives Angie Everhart and Tracy Bingham (!) under deep-bikini cover to bring down evil Traci Lords (!!) in a mercifully-never-optioned syndication pilot called D.R.E.A.M. Team. Despite what Sheen’s résumé says, it’s available in all its “feature film” glory at a video store near you.

Still, if She Spies seems like the kind of jiggle-junk that belongs in syndication itself, not on a classy network that brings you highbrow fare like Fear Factor and Dog Eat Dog, you’re right: NBC is only airing the first four episodes. After that, She Spies, through the magic of an unusual corporate cost-sharing convergence with MGM Television, sashays into syndication alongside bimbovision romps like V.I.P.

Or, it would have: Due to a severe downturn in the syndicated action-babe market recently, shows like Sheena, Relic Hunter and even mighty four-season vet V.I.P. have been flat-out canceled. On the other hand, sci-fi actioners like Andromeda and Mutant X are not only returning, but thriving. What does it all mean? Is America fed up with sexy-campy fluff that puts style over substance and boobs over brains? Could it be that She Spies is bouncing onto the scene at the worst possible time? What does this say about our cultural psyche?

Damn, relax—it’s just TV. Syndicated TV, at that.

With rare exceptions, syndie fare is bone-headed escapism, and no show knew this better than Pamela Anderson’s subliminally smart V.I.P. When it winds up in daily reruns on cable’s TNN this September, maybe the action-comedy will finally get the props it deserves as the funniest and best-written hour in weekend syndication limbo. Ditto Anderson, a sadly underrated comic actress because few ever looked beyond the big hair, big lips and big … shoes.

It’s obviously not aiming for the relative realism of ABC’s spy-chick thriller Alias (or even Disney’s Kim Possible—and she’s a cartoon); She Spies is the presumed buck-the-camp-downtrend heir to the V.I.P. tiara. Henstridge is no Anderson by any stretch-skirt, but how can a cheeky show that was originally titled B.A.I.T. (Bureau of Allied Intelligence Tactics) starring a glam threesome of convicts linked together by electronic bracelets forced to fight crime or go to the Big House possibly miss?

Yeah … maybe the women-in-prison angle wasn’t such a bad idea, after all—or even the volleyball-pro thing. Daisy, come back!

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