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2.46- random rants Fall 2002

TV article on Firefly, Waking The Dead, and Robbery Homicide Division
a random rant by David Blackwell

Right now is just past the middle of November or somewhere around there. The latest TV sweeps period is going on and new shows are shown everywhere in this Fall season no matter whether you live in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, etc. People are lining up for the holiday movies whether it is DIE ANOTHER DAY, SOLARIS, or the new HARRY POTTER during the course of this month with other new entries to follow next month like the latest LORD OF THE RINGS- THE TWO TOWERS and STAR TREK: NEMESIS. Also people are preparing to buy gifts for Christmas as they spend lots of money and build up their credit card bills. Amidst all of this, people still are watching the latest TV shows and movies (at the theater or on their VHS and DVD players), and reading books. I have been watching many interesting shows in the latest months from the second season of 24 to the British crime drama WAKING THE DEAD to the British comedy COUPLING to the best new sci-fi show FIREFLY.

FIREFLY is the latest show from Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon is the same guy who is behind BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER AND the spin-off series ANGEL (with co-creator David Greenwalt), and he has also written the script for ALIEN RESSURECTION and rewrites on such movies as SPEED, TOY STORY, and X-MEN. FIREFLY has interesting and compelling characters like the ones on BUFFY. It is set in the year 2570 in another solar system full of terraformed planets and moons. FIREFLY takes place six years after a civil war against some big government called the Alliance which the rebels lost. Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Mal) is one of these rebels. He fought in the Battle of Serenity with Zoe. He led her (and others) and kept some people alive. Now he has a beat up Firefly freighter named Serenity. Zoe is on his crew. Wash is Zoes husband and the pilot of Serenity. Kaylee is the ships engineer and Jayne is the muscle. They also acquired a Companion named Inara (she is like a Geshia), and picked up two passengers (fugitives wanted by the Alliance) who became part of the crew- Doctor Simon Tam and his sister River that he broke out of a government facility where they did experiments on her brains (Two by Two and hands of blue).

Every episode of the eight aired so far has been great. The latest episode, "Ariel", is one of the greatest episodes of the series so far. Now the problem FIREFLY faces since the start are low ratings, being on the wrong day, a pilot episode that has been delayed (and it will hopefully air on December 20th), and so. The media have been predicting FIREFLY's cancellation from the start. They're just jumping to conclusions too soon. I know that networks are trigger happy theses days with ratings because they are stuck in the mind-set that a show has to hit it coming out of the gate within the first few weeks instead of letting a show find its audience. FOX has said that FIREFLY was going to grow slowly at the start, but the ratings haven't really improved or declined. What is a fan to do when ratings mean higher advertising rates for an add if a show performs well. For those that don't, they have to weigh the factors such as the cost of the show, the ratings it has been getting, and would something cheaper be easier to make their money back on with the same or better ratings. The only good news so far is that FOX has ordered two more episodes to be produced beyond the 13 originally ordered.
IT is harsh on what shows survive and which ones don't . Some crappy shows survive because they got a good lead-in or/and a good slot on the right evening while quality shows can die quickly if they are scheduled in the wrong time slot. I have seen many good shows vanish quickly (C-16, SLEEPWALKERS, EZ STREETS, etc) or after 1-3 years (SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND, MILLENIUM, 7 DAYS, DARK ANGEL). When will networks learn that some shows won't perform as well in a bad time slot like sci-fi shows for example or that some shows might have limited appeal with loyal fans? I don't know. I just hope FIREFLY doesn't face cancellation soon like so many others because of the things that are against it.

I love FIREFLY and it is my favorite new show of this season, and I want to see what happens next and shows as great as FIREFLY are hard to come by.

Now I have many other things to say on other shows I have watched. If you haven't seen the British comedy COUPLING (think FRIENDS about sex and relationships, think a show that is actually funny compared to FRIENDS (which isn't funny, tends to bland and boring and stupid)), check it out on BBC AMERICA or check the listings of your local PBS station or buy the DVD of the first season available on January 21st, 2003. COUPLING is the funniest show I have ever watched and at least ten times better than any sitcom made in the US. I dread that NBC is trying to make a new version of COUPLING retooled for US audiences.

Also I have just watched season one of the British crime drama WAKING THE DEAD starring Trevor Eve (as Peter Boyd). Boyd leads a cold case unit that investigates unsolved murders that have been cold due to the lack of new evidence. What I like about WAKING THE DEAD is how the people investigating it go about investigating the case and the characters themselves. I like the forensic scientist Frankie (she is quite attractive) and the attractive young Mel (who respects Boyd, but at the same time she won't stoop to being his lap dog when she refuses to pick up his dry cleaning in the first episode). BBC America took the eight episodes that formed the first season (4 two parters) and edited them into 4 two hour long episodes. The last episode of the bunch has to be the best of the lot because it kept me guessing longer on who really killed the cop that vanished over a year ago (and the case opened anew when the cops body was found). The first episode, Burnout, had a lot to like about it too and how investigating a 9 year old car accident isn't what it seems that leads to things being thrown into turmoil for the daughter who believes her father was murdered. The weakest story of the first season has to be Blind Beggar which makes it too obvious from early on who killed the person found in a church (only to be discovered years later when the corpse is found during work in a church basement). I do really like WAKING THE DEAD and hope BBC America airs season 2 when the show returns to the schedule in January 2003. In the meanwhile, you can check out a new crime series on BBC America in December. Beginning on Monday Dec 2nd, BBC America debuts WIRE IN THE BLOOD (three episodes) that stars Robson Green (RECKLESS, TOUCHING EVIL, THE GRAFTERS) as clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill who teams up with Detective Inspector Carol Jordan to track down serial killers in northern England. The series is based on the best selling novels by author Val McDermid with the first two episodes being adapted from her novels while the third episode is an original story. If you have seen Robson Green in another series, like British crimes shows, or looking for something new to watch while some US crime shows show some repeats mixed in with new episodes (don’t forget that show is repeated from the start on December 24th), check out WIRE IN THE BLOOD.

Of course, the thing that bugs me about network TV is Why can't American broadcast networks show six episode series in the repeat periods like December instead of the usual mix of new and old episodes? (the same could be said for the summer). Sometimes I just find repeats too soon leaves me with nothing to watch since I'm not keen on watching repeats of episodes I've just seen a few weeks ago. And I rather have some new dramas instead of inane specials and Christmas shows. And I go further and wonder when will local networks and cable networks put on something good before primetime (and in the first hour of primetime) instead of showing the same repeats of show (over and over) and movies that get shown way too many times!!! It just makes me wonder if the nets know how to program or that they are just after the bottom line (and the viewer be damned). Furthermore I would love them to take some chances and show episodes of little watched shows that didn't last for long because they had the wrong time slot and poor promotion. Sometimes they used to do that. Now they are closing the ranks as they overpay for rights to show episodes of popular shows because they're afraid someone else will get them. It makes a viewer shake his head and want to wish for earlier days when there was more variety across the spectrum of the channels.

And then it comes to the best crime show that not enough people are watching, Michael Mann's ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION. CBS has decided to pull this Friday's episode in favor of CSI repeat and now they have decide to test the show on Saturdays fro Nov 30th and Dec 7th and test The Agency in RHD’s old slot on Dec 6th. I hate it when nets get impatient and decide to play musical chairs with their schedules because the nets aren't satisfied with the ratings the show is getting, but some shows do need better time slots on a different day (like FIREFLY). ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION is 10 times better than the highly rated LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT which fell into the formula trap after the first season and became the same old thing every episode. The only LAW AND ORDER show I really like is CRIMINAL INTENT because it is fresh compared to the other two L&O shows because it doesn't focus on court scenes, has a compelling lead actor in Vincent D'Onofrio, and shows the criminal's POV . RHD on the other hand is gritty with two great characters played by Tom Sizemore (Lt. Cole) and Klea Scott. It also helps that RHD is shot in high-def digital video and has stories that grip you from start to finish. RHD is like MIAMI VICE for the 21st century but set in Los Angeles and revolving around L.A.'s Robbery Homicide detectives. Please watch this show!!!

Stay tuned for the next ENTERLINE column. Sorry this one took so long. Have a better one.

Send comments and letter to David Blackwell, the writer of ENTERLINE, to this email: lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com
This column and the opinions expressed are the writer's own and copyright 2002 David Blackwell