“The Andromeda Strain” is full of surprises.

Every time you think it’s merely bad, boring television, it offers up a moment of such exquisite stupidity that the existential bounds of the universe seem to shimmer and remake themselves before your very eyes. My personal favorite bit was when a biologist, told by a fellow scientist that a disease from outer space is about to obliterate humanity, nods and asks how his kids are taking the divorce.

But “The Andromeda Strain” has idiotic moments for every taste, or lack of it. Maybe you prefer the researcher who, at a loss to explain how a newborn has survived the disease, shrugs helplessly: “It’s not like the baby was knocking back handfuls of acetosalicylic acid.” (I dunno, doc; no telling what these crazy kids pick up on YouTube these days.) Or the unfortunate hippie who contracts the space germs when a mouse bites him on the bare butt as he squats behind some scrub brush in the desert. (Thus is the counterculture refuted!)

Whichever you choose, “The Andromeda Strain” is likely to be a consciousness-altering, or -lowering, experience. A hacky remake of a mediocre 1971 film of a pulp-science 1969 novel, this miniseries (Monday and Tuesday, if you must waste two nights of your life) is a poster child for generational decline: Whatever few IQ points were present in the original have long since leached away.

It opens with the crash of a military satellite in the desert outside Piedmont, Utah, described by one character as “the armpit of nowhere.” Pretty soon the residents are committing suicide with chainsaws – which is apparently not a quaint local custom – or keeling over with strokes. Autopsies show their blood has turned to dust. The army quarantines the area, and a team of scientists – including Benjamin Bratt, Daniel Dae Kim of “Lost” and Christa Miller of “The Drew Carey Show” – is convened in a top-secret underground lab to figure out how to stop the disease.

Robert Wise’s 1971 film rendered all this passable entertainment by keeping the storyline taut and spare. Robert Schenkkan (whose last TV project was a godawful 2005 television remake of “Spartacus”) went the opposite route in his script for the miniseries: It’s draped with more ornaments than a trailer park Christmas tree. Domestic dramas! Corporate polluters! Don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy! Biological warfare! Racial profiling! Area 51 conspiracies! Even the proverbial rip in the space-time continuum makes an appearance.

Executive producers and brothers Tony and Ridley Scott manage the same dazzling look for “The Andromeda Strain” that they achieved in films like “Blade Runner” and “Top Gun.” But the talented cast appears bewildered by the profoundly doltish words they’re forced to speak. (By the script, I mean, not the space germs, which are lethal but not mean.) The saddest of all is Ricky Schroder, rehashing his time on “24” by playing a soldier who has to run around screaming stuff like “I’ve seen enough – we should nuke this place and be done with it!”

Not that I wasn’t chiming in about midway through the first hour.


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