Primeval

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Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9 (BBC America)

Dinosaurs never really seem to go out of style, which is interesting in that they no longer actually exist. Or so we think.

They're certainly alive and well in "Primeval," a crackling-good new BBC America sci-fi series thriller that's packed with vivid CGI prehistoric predators galore and a story line that's almost plausible. The realism in the prehistoric creatures is no accident considering that the series was co-created and exec produced by Tim Haines, who had an active hand in the seminal "Walking With Dinosaurs" a few years back.

What's great about "Primeval" is the way the big beasts are placed into modern society to interact with -- and scare the living crap out of -- everyday people. The result is a kind of Saturday afternoon matinee vibe transferred to Saturday nights.

The story here centers around Professor Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall), who is something called an "evolutionary zoologist" specializing in the investigation of gaps in the evolutionary record. There's a specialty for ya, huh? It happens that Cutter's wife disappeared some eight years before in an unexplained incident, and we know through the magic of flashback that she was snatched up by a time-ripping anomaly and has been bouncing around in the ether ever since. But meanwhile, Cutter is managing to come face to face with the deep, dark past himself when he and his assistants stumble upon all variety of unexplained anomalies, which allows them to meet up with fearsome creatures like a Gorgonopsid (say that 10 times fast) that happened to be one of the dangerous predators from the Permian era roughly 250 million years ago.

Beside Cutter in his quest to save mankind from his past, or something, are his right-hand man Stephen Hart (James Murray), nerdball student Connor Temple (Andrew-Lee Potts), skeptical bureaucrat Claudia Brown (Lucy Brown) and comely reptile expert Abby Maitland (Hannah Spearritt), the latter seemingly around because she looks smashing in her underwear. They encounter the aforementioned Gorgonopsid along with a Scutosaurus and a flying lizard who is so cute you'll want one for your own home.

The story line in the opening pair of "Primeval" installments is adequate but, in general, takes a backseat to the mind-blowing visuals. The plot occasionally almost feels tacked on to justify the next round of visual effects. But those computer-generated monsters and beasties are so good and realistic that it excuses a multitude of sins in the writing. I'm thinking in particular of a swarm of supersized spiders guaranteed to give you nightmares for weeks.

The result here is a good old-fashioned big-screen adventure flick writ small to fit the confines of your LCD.

Cast: Douglas Henshall, James Murray, Andrew-Lee Potts, Lucy Brown, Hannah Spearritt, Juliet Aubrey, Ben Miller, Mark Wakeling. Production: Impossible Pictures and ITV/ProSieben/M6. Creators: Tim Haines, Adrian Hodges. Executive producer: Tim Haines. Producer: Cameron McAllister. Writer: Adrian Hodges. Director: Cilla Ware. Director of photography: Jake Polonsky. Production designer: Anthony Ainsworth. Costume designer: Joey Attawia. Editor: Adam Recht. Composer: Dominik Scherrer. Casting: Jill Trevellick.

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