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FOX IS TRYING TO CAPITALIZE ON THE NFL WITH 007 RIP-OFF

You never know quite what network programmers are thinking, but it's not difficult to imagine the folks at Fox having a conversation that went something like this:

"Hey, we've got the NFL on Sunday afternoons. What are we going to do now?" asked one."We're going to Disneyland!" cried another.

"No, no, no," said the first. "We've got to try to keep all those viewers tuned to Fox when the game is over. What can we put on that football fans will like?"

"Well, uh, football appeals mainly to men," said still another Fox programmer. "What do men like to watch?"

"Women!" cried programmer No. 2.

"OK, we'll need something with sexy women in it. But that's not enough," said programmer No. 1.

"Men like . . . James Bond movies!" said programmer No. 3. "All that action! All that adventure! All those gadgets!"

"All those women!" cried programmer No. 2.

"We can't get the rights to Bond. Too expensive," said programmer No. 1.

"Then we'll rip off everything but the name," said programmer No. 3. "We'll call it `Fortune Hunter.' "

And, for good measure, the folks at Fox went out and hired a gorgeous hunk of man, Mark Frankel - who comes complete with a British accent - to play the "Fortune Hunter" hero, Carlton Dial. To appeal to women viewers, of course.

The result isn't terribly bad, but it isn't particularly good either. Dial is sort of a nonviolent mercenary (he uses tranquilizer darts, not bullets) who's employed by a private company to retrieve various lost and/or stolen items.

In Sunday's pilot (6 p.m., Ch. 13), he's in Morocco - with the first of what promises to be a string of femme fatales - looking for a super weapon the U.S. Defense Department managed to lose track of.

And Dial himself has plenty of high-tech gadgets, including a co-worker back at headquarters (John Robert Hoffman) who can see everything Dial is doing with the use of super contact lenses and offers lots of help.

The series could also use some help. Frankel has the makings of a star, but the show needs better writing - particularly better humor - and to find an identity of its own so it can be more than just a 007 rip-off.

Which is all it is right now.