Saturday, April 14, 2007

For everything there is a season box set,
A time to love, and a time to... inexplicably bored out of my mind.

I love a good story. Even better, I love a good long story. I am also not a stranger to the DVD marathon, having been known in the past to devour an entire season of a television show in a single weekend. I once watched the first five seasons of The West Wing in less than a month. That is why it is no small thing I am announcing now: I have been beaten by Space: Above and Beyond.

In December I bought Space: Above and Beyond: The Complete Series (all of 23 episodes) and now, four months and only 11 episodes later, I am giving up. It's not that I haven't had time. No, in the past four months I have also watched the sixth season of The West Wing, the first season of 24 (not a keeper), seasons two and three of The Pretender and the first season of Numb3rs, not to mention a number of movies and even a second viewing for certain movies. Actually, all that makes it sound like I couldn't have had time, but the truth is, if Space...forget it, I'm abbreviating it SAAB from now on...if SAAB had been as dramatic as its box cover, I would have finished it before New Year's. At least I bought it used.

Is everything bad about it? Surprisingly, no. In fact, given that it was a show that got canceled during the time that even Babylon 5 wasn't getting canceled, I was surprised by how much wasn't bad about it. The special effects were nothing, well, special but were better than other shows of 1995 and worked around the CGI and budgetary limitations of the time quite well, and the same goes for set design. The music was fair to middling, but that was also common for the time. The premise wasn't bad either. It was a sci-fi show about a collection of flawed characters on the frontlines of a massive human-alien outer-space conflict; if that's not a premise practically bursting with exciting dramatic possibilities, I don't know what is. Even the specific episode plots weren't necessarily bad. No, what caused this series' downfall for me (and possibly everybody else in America who didn't watch it in 1995) was the wooden dialogue and the desolate, parched, and positively dreary wasteland where its characterization should have been. Again, it's not as if the characters were bad, or even lacking in potential; they simply starved starved to death out of neglect, leaving behind boring first-draft cardboard-cutout skeletons where their well fleshed out and three-dimensional bodies should have been. After 11 episodes of me switching the counter on my DVD player from "Time Elapsed" to a much more comforting "Time Remaining," I have decided that I want slots 1, 2 and 5 in my DVD player back much more than I want to finish the rest of this series. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to Story: squandered potential. I'm not saying any of this to criticize the series (What would be the point? It's been dead for 12 years.) but to illustrate some of the things I look for in film.

In contrast, Numb3rs is a series which by all rights should be boring. I mean, it's a crime procedural about math. However, what it has that SAAB utterly failed to produce are vibrant, likeable, complex, believable characters with interesting and entertaining inter-relationships that provide the show with humor and, surprisingly, warmth. The series is filled with gemstone-quality character moments that make it almost more of a procedural drama than just a straight procedural, and the show is all the better for them. I know I have talked about this show before, but I got the season one set in the mail on Thursday afternoon and I had watched my way through the entire (albeit shortened) season by Friday evening, about 4 minutes before the lightning knocked the power out.
"Larry, I didn't know you wanted kids."
"Well, children are wormholes."
"Yeah, they're portals, to the unreachable future and unattainable past. Well, as things stand now they exist only in the theoretical realm, so..."
"Yeah, I can see how you would have a problem selling a woman on the idea of carrying your wormhole."

- Drs. Larry Fleinhardt, Charlie Eppes and Amita Ramanujan, Numb3rs

Yeah, they're geeks, but at least they know it.

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Blogger Mickyann said...

Hmm, yeah I saw an episode of Numb3rs one time (one of the many things that's shown sporadically here) and I really enjoyed it. I think the whole math thing actually makes it more intelligent and subtle. It's not a dumb, hastily reproduced storyline stolen from an urban legend (I seriously saw an episode of CSI ... or one of those shows ... that ripped off an urban legend and actually tried to make it believable and compelling and failed miserably!!). It's like there's an equation behind human motivation as well. It's using math to figure out what drives people. (At least that was what I got from the one episode I saw) I've found that stories based around math are usually very good and insightful (exp. Proof). Wasn't it Rousseau who was the mathmetician who came up with an equation to prove that God existed or something? I'm going to have to look that up ....

Monday, April 16, 2007 11:32:00 AM  

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