The new series ”Dolphin Cove,” filmed entirely in Australia, is CBS’s latest effort to establish an early-evening beachhead in the Saturday ratings. This one – created by Michael Bendix, Allen Marcil and Peter Benchley – could tickle the notoriously fickle fancies of younger viewers.
Tonight’s premiere, at 8 o’clock, was written by Mr. Benchley and directed by Mel Damski. We find Michael Larson (Frank Converse), an American dedicated to dolphin research, arriving in Australia with his two children, David (Trey Ames) and his kid sister, Katie (Karron Graves). Michael’s wife was killed in an auto accident. He has now accepted an offer from an odd and very rich Australian to try to crack the communication code of dolphins. Since the death of their mother, David has become sullenly distant and Katie, suffering from denial shock, hasn’t spoken a word. Michael will also have to devise a communication code for his own family. Get it?
Giving the formula a boost of adrenalin is the physical production. The show is set in subtropical Queensland, which seems to consist of miles and miles of untouched beaches and forests. On hand as guide and protector is an Aboriginal Australian called Didge (Ernie Dingo), who shuttles easily between two cultures. He warns that mosquito netting is necessary while sleeping (”We used to have vultures here, but the mosquitoes got them”), but otherwise touts the virtues of Queensland with convincing enthusiasm. The Australian Tourist Board should not be disappointed.
There is the inevitable element of culture shock as the American children are confronted with new sights and manners. David is not too happy to find that his new school is an all-boys institution. The girls, he learns, are somewhere else. ”Oh great,” he whines, ”St. Elsewhere.” It might be noted for future Trivial Pursuit contests that the executive producers are Mr. Marcil and John Masius, who once was a ”St. Elsewhere” writer and producer. Katie, still not talking, gets a new therapist, Allison (Virginia Hey), who not only has a son (Antony Richards) to provide a buddy for David but also is attractive enough to make an inevitable romantic interest for Michael.
– JOHN J. O’CONNOR