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The Famous Jett Jackson

Weekdays, 7 p.m., Family

Last week Family launched the third season of the industrially Canadian (it's shot in Brooklin, Ont. and Toronto), culturally American (produced by Disney, it takes place in the U.S.) series that is an appealing take on the double life of a child actor. Lee Thompson Young plays 15-year-old Jett Jackson, who stars in a highly rated action TV series. When he's in Hollywood, Jett plays Silverstone, a secret agent and action hero who saves civilization from high-tech enemies. Jett spends his downtime in his hometown of Wilsted, North Carolina, with his mother, also a TV actress; his father, the local sheriff; and his great grandmother, the wise and revered Miz Coretta. The premise of the show is that, although Jett is a big TV star, he just wants to be a regular kid.

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Each episode contains a story within a story: the real-life problem Jett confronts in Wilsted, and a corresponding episode of Silverstone.

In the season's first episode, for instance, Silverstone pursues Dr. Hypnotto, a villain who has developed a mind-control microchip. Meanwhile, Miz Coretta, who is also described as a conjurer and healer, faces age discrimination when she applies for a job at a medical clinic.

Sometimes, the Silverstone story will spill over into Wilsted. In the second episode, Silverstone and his partner Hawk (Lindy Booth), have to babysit 11-year-old Corky, the boss's obnoxious son, while trying to prevent an evil video-game designer from unleashing his deadly cyborg. The kid who plays Corky desperately wants to hang with Jett off-screen.

This show has a lot going for it. It has a sense of irony and, unlike most series aimed at this age group, the dialogue occasionally ventures beyond cliché and actually has some sharp wit. The Silverstone scenes have an air of hokey unreality, as if to tell us they are not to be taken seriously. The Wilsted scenes, on the other hand - although they sometimes lean toward cloying sentimentality - can be rather entertaining.

Last Wednesday's episode was quite a gem. Jett's friend, JB (Ryan Sommers Baum), tangles with the new girl in school, Holly (Natalie Urquhart), who is pushy, intelligent and contrary. As JB gradually finds that his feelings of antagonism are turning into a crush, both his and Holly's characters jump off the screen. Pudgy JB can't understand why lovely Holly would like him. Holly never abandons her annoying habit of keeping the upper hand in a conversation by twisting things around. Throughout this episode the dialogue has some clever twists and turns. When Holly walks into the gym wearing her party dress, JB turns around, looks at her and says, "Wow."

Holly: "Wow is good?"

JB: "Wow is good."

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In episodes that run this week, JB runs for student-council president, and takes a crack at becoming a standup comic.gT

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