There’s an old saying in Hollywood: “Nobody sets out to make a bad movie.”

In the case of this Sunday’s CBS telemovie, a horrid horror movie called “Locusts,” I’m not so sure.

“Locusts” (airing at 9 p.m. EDT) stars Lucy Lawless, late of “Xena: Warrior Princess,” as a scientist out to stop the spread of genetically engineered “superlocusts” who escape from the laboratory and begin to swarm across the United States like voracious tsunamis.

These bugs are not only crop-eaters, they’re flesh-eaters – and, thanks to the mad-scientist biological tweaks, impervious to insecticides.

“What you’ve created here,” Lawless’ Dr. Maddy Rierdon screams to her tampering-with-nature colleague, “is a bioweapon!”

And what CBS has created here is a really bad movie. And in this case, it may have been engineered on purpose – as the sort of offering you’re supposed to laugh at, and laugh with.

Among the executive producers of “Locusts” are Frank von Zerneck and Robert Sertner, who have recently made a cottage industry of blatantly bad, hokey disaster TV dramas.

“Category 6: Day of Destruction” was theirs. So was “Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure,” a disaster telemovie of a different sort.

Most recently, and most relevantly, they produced last month’s CBS nature-run-amok movie, “Spring Break Shark Attack,” a sharks-hitting Miami adventure featuring computer-generated shark fins and good-looking, underdressed young actors who were just as inauthentic and unbelievable.

The movie did very well for CBS, though, in attracting a young demographic.

When you put both “Spring Break” and “Shark Attack” in the title, you’re not exactly aiming for the standard “Matlock” crowd.

And to make its tongue-in-cheek intentions quite clear, the network promoted that movie heavily with ads that showed a shark bite chomping a toothy chunk out of the CBS logo.

The idea of aiming low, and making intentional “B” movies to lure a younger audience, is nothing new. There’s no question CBS, writer Doug Prochilo and director David Jackson are doing it with “Locusts” – not with a climactic anti-locust strategy that calls for “the biggest damned bug zapper the world has ever seen!”

That’s no different, though, than what Sci-Fi Channel is doing right now with playful made-for-TV monster movies like “Mansquito.”

Or, for that matter, than what ABC did when it basically invented the telemovie in the early 1970s, desperate for anything that might attract a younger and larger audience.

One of those early ABC telemovies, in fact, was a 1974 drama called “Locusts,” starring Ron Howard as part of a farm family defending its crop against an invading insect horde.

It turns out they do make them like they used to – just as badly. And on occasion, as in this Sunday on CBS, they remake them, too.


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