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For Disney Channel, Going Weird Pays

Capitalizing on all the interest in the paranormal
that's been generated by TV series like The X-Files -- but removing the
darkness -- Disney Channel has come up with a promising new live-action series, So
. Its characters, especially Cara DeLizia, should draw in teens and preteens.

This weekly half-hour stars DeLizia as Fi (short for
Fiona), a computer-savvy 14-year-old girl who's touring the U.S. on a custom bus with
her brother Jack, 15, and their mother, Molly, a '70s rock star trying for a
comeback. Interestingly, Molly is played by Mackenzie Phillips, who once performed with
her father's group, the Mamas and the Papas, and starred in the sitcom One Day at
a Time

But no, this isn't another Partridge Family
sitcom. Rather it's a dramatic series in which music plays a background role.

In the pilot, "Family Reunion," the family's
road show hits a theater in Chicago, where Fi hears a boy crying. After later seeing the
boy's ghost, drenched, Fi does a Web search on "Chicago/drowning" via her
omnipresent laptop.

That's how she finds out that a boat, the Eastland,
sank off Chicago in 1915 and that its victims had been taken to that very building.
Eventually she learns that the boy and his parents died in that tragedy but weren't
buried together.

Unfortunately, any suspense that should've been built
by this episode evaporated with a detailed introduction about the Eastland's sinking.

In "Web Sight," another early episode supplied by
Disney, Fi gets a mysterious e-mail containing a newspaper critic's blistering review
of her mom's act -- the day before she performs. This e-mailer, "Unknown,"
also shows her a video clip on her computer that predicts the family's bus will crash
into a car.

Initially fearful, Fi gradually wonders if Unknown
isn't actually her late father trying to communicate with her.

Henry Winkler, Michelle Davis and Alec Griffith, who
developed this series' interesting concept after having teamed on Fox's The
UFO Report:
Sightings, are So Weird's executive producers.

Patrick Levis, as Fi's brother, plays the unbeliever
in both episodes, harassing Fi with jibes like "cybergirl" and "little Miss
Ghostbuster." Jack's goofy pal Clu and his parents also are along for the ride,
but contribute little so far.

So Weird -- with future episodes to deal with aliens,
Bigfoot, angels, witches and ESP -- will bow on Disney Channel Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.