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THESE 'MATES' MAKE DULL BEDFELLOWS.

Byline: David Kronke TV Critic

``Running Mates'' is standard-issue Hollywood glop that reveals virtually no insight into the world it describes, which is doubly disappointing, as it couldn't be more timely. In an acting stretch, celebrated conservative Tom Selleck stars as Jim Pryce, a presidential aspirant on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, surrounded by questions - who will he select as his running mate? - and a bevy of past and present paramours. Well, he is a Democrat.

The sinister big-money forces (lacking only handlebar mustaches to twiddle) will bankroll his entire campaign if Pryce selects Texas Sen. Morris (Bruce McGill), a guy who oozes evil like a Lone Star well oozes oil - it's a wonder anyone ever ventured near this guy, let alone elected him. Lauren Hartman (Laura Linney), his loyal and whip-smart (yet not so smart that she didn't have an affair with him) campaign manager, wants him to pick the upright Sen. Randall (Bob Gunton, and damned if he doesn't look a little like Joseph Lieberman), who's passionate about campaign finance reform. A former mistress from his distant past, the boozy Meg Gable (Faye Dunaway), wants him to go with her louse of a husband (Robert Culp). Shawna Morgan (Teri Hatcher), a Hollywood ditz who just happens to be another prior lover, aches to help her buddies rub elbows with all that power, while his wife (Nancy Travis) is vaguely resentful of the whole mess.

All this has the makings of a serviceably farcical satire, maybe, but none of it plays as remotely credible. Campaign finance is a crucial issue that affects whether people or corporations run our country - an overly simplistic statement to be sure, but it's handled even more simplistically here. Pryce's late crisis of confidence is a joke - did the guy really just realize how corrupt the system is? - as is the moment when the women all get together to compare notes. Backhanded political maneuvering that could affect the outcome of the election is in the offing, so of course they all discuss how good Pryce is/was in the sack. (Selleck manages little chemistry with any of them.)

The pin-headed depictions of Hollywood imbeciles come off as particularly callow (not to mention stultifyingly unfunny), with the portrayal of the Washington media not far behind. When one reporter aboard Pryce's plane mentions the issues, another reproaches him, burbling, ``A week in L.A., fat expense account - maybe we'll get laid!'' His buddy eyes the leggy Linney and leers, ``I wouldn't mind eight years of that.'' You will mind two hours of this gibberish.

The facts

--The show ``Running Mates.''

--What: Dramedy about the pressures - and women - surrounding a presidential candidate.

--Who: Tom Selleck, Laura Linney, Nancy Travis, Teri Hatcher, Faye Dunaway.

--Where: TNT.

--When: 8 tonight.

--Our rating: Two stars

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Tom Selleck stars as Jim Pryce, a presidential candidate whose naughty past makes its way to the media and is creating a slew of problems for his campaign, in TNT's ``Running Mates.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Aug 13, 2000
Words:505
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