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Archive for Friday, June 16, 2006

Disney airs ‘Buffy’ knockoff

June 16, 2006

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Any similarities between "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior" (7 p.m., Disney) and the series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" are strictly intentional. Like Buffy, the young Wendy (Brenda Song) is a spirited teen who discovers that she has been endowed with supernatural powers and is the only thing standing between mankind and the forces of evil.

This comes at an inconvenient time for Wendy. She's locked in a close election for homecoming queen against her rival, Jessica Dawson (Ellen Woglom). The spirit of a 1,000-year-old Chinese fighter may animate Wendy, but Jessica seems to have taken her cues from Reese Witherspoon's character in "Election."

Wendy doesn't come upon her spiritual endowment on her own. She's followed, or rather stalked, by Shen (Shin Koyamada), a hunky monk from the old country who claims to have been reincarnated over the centuries. In the loopy logic of a Disney film, Shen teaches her martial-arts traditions while never really interfering with Wendy's lifestyle as a spoiled, mall-obsessed, up-talking teen. Shen even submits to a makeover.

And like every Disney movie, "Wendy" wants to have it both ways. It celebrates valley girl self-absorption and materialism while at the same time imparting "lessons" about the need to keep one's heritage.

For a kids' movie about martial arts and fighting evil, "Wendy" is painfully slow to build and noticeably short on action.

¢ On two episodes of "24" (Fox), Jack returns from the shadows (7 p.m.), and plunges into a hostage crisis (8 p.m.).

Fox is doing a smart thing by giving viewers another chance to watch last season's "24," the series' most exciting "day" to date. Jean Smart all but stole the show as the seemingly unstable first lady. Gregory Itzin also deserves notice for his performance as President Logan, a commander in chief unlike any other seen in prime time.

Tonight's other highlights

Schedules may vary due to local sports coverage.

¢ A mother-in-law murderer employs a peculiar defense on "Close to Home" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ A Parisian shopping spree proves stressful on "Windfall" (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ A gang targets an FBI agent for revenge on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ A predator is faced with a life-or-death decision on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): how to avoid credit-card scams and unhygienic restaurants.

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