Saturday, 19 March 2011
Back on the 'net
The Net is Sci-Fi only in as much as it depicted computer technology as being a trifle more advanced than it actually was. And I do mean a trifle because 5 minutes after it aired it looked pathetically dated, real computers having evolved far beyond the capabilities of their fictional counterparts depicted here. That's all part of the shows dubious charm though.
I've written about The Net before on The Quest. I spoke of the haste in which the early episodes blasted through all the Fugitive Show staples and worried that they were blowing their load too soon, as well as the risk of repetition inherent in having regular villains, before praising leading lady Brooke Langton for rising above the cliches and really elevating the material. Sadly, I must report that while the worries proved founded the praise was premature, leaving the show incapable of living up to whatever slight promise it may have held.
Brooke Langton:Decent actress who gave the material what it was worth.
Credit where it is due though, the producers did not go down without a fight.
The show lasted a grand total of one season. 22 episodes. During this time they managed not one but two major format changes in an attempt (one assumes) to boost the shows popularity, although you have to believe that the second change, coming as it did a mere 4 episodes from the end of the season, might have been a bit of a wasted effort.
The first change to the show might have seemed a logical one at the time. Up until this point lead character Angela had been assisted/manipulated by an unseen ally calling himself Sorcerer. Sorcerer was represented by the instantly recognisable tones of the legendary Tim Curry but never actually seen on-screen. In theory, bringing Sorcerer out into the open would serve not only to widen the story possibilities surrounding the character but also furnish the show with a second protagonist and thus slow the pace at which the Angela character was burning through potential plots.
Problems arose straight away however. Firstly, the character reveals himself, voluntarily, because he wanted to save Angela from the threat of the week. Now, were the threat of the week a particularly potent one this may hold some merit but it wasn't. In fact, it was one of the weaker plots they uncovered over the course of the series which made his decision, when he had remained hidden during times of much greater danger to Angela, and indeed had manipulated her into many of those situations himself, a pretty laughable one. Of course this was only the beginning of the 'Sorcerer acting out of character' problems.
You see, they decided that Sorcerer was a teenager. A genius teenager but a teenager nonetheless. Now, on the face of it, not that big of a problem; the Tim Curry voice was explained as a construct and the hints of Sorcerer having been involved with Angelas Dad were actually, it seems, referring to Sorcerers Dad. So far, so clever cop-out. The problem was that they then started writing him as a teenager. His attitudes, his motivations, his speech patterns (the Curry voice disguised his voice, it didn't translate it into fuddy-duddy), every aspect of his personality changed. He simply wasn't the same character anymore.
Never mind though, we'll forgive them, because, well, we've got no choice have we, it's done now. In any case, they at least sweeten the pill by casting future babyfaced CSI underdog Mr Eric Szmanda. Say what you will about the guys choice of shows, he has a natural charisma and easy charm that make him one of the easier to like people on television. And you need to be likable if you're trying to replace Tim Curry.
Not Tim Curry
The second change was harder to swallow, not least because it altered the entire premise of the show. Having Angela defeat the Praetorians once and for all was a gutsy move by the producers but it was knee-jerk and unnecessary. Unless the show was already canceled and this was their way of freeing up the actors a couple of weeks early. If it wasn't that, and the producers genuinely thought that they were putting in place a new format that might stand the show in good stead going forward then I'm afraid it's a typical example of baby/bathwater syndrome.
Not to mention, and much like the Sorcerer reveal, an anti-climactic one at that. You see, this shadowy conspiracy that had it's tendrils in every aspect of worldwide computer use, able to topple major political figures, rig stock markets and lotteries and dealing with major criminal and political organisations from all over the world, was brought down in a perfunctory shoot-out with a bunch of street thugs. A cheaply shot, amateurishly edited(I swear, the same shot of a guy strafing the room with a machine gun was used 3 times), perfunctory shoot-out to boot.
The new format saw Angela, now exonerated, training as an FBI agent and going to work in a new division of the bureau dedicated to cyber-crime, called the CIC. Now, what they say this stands for is Center for Intrusion Control but you just know they wanted to call it Center for Internet Crime before someone told them it sounded naff. I mean come on, what does Center for Intrusion Control actually mean?
Anyway, she has a new boss/partner/potential love interest, good old Sorcerer is still around, as a 'consultant', and the whole thing could not scream 'kill me now, we've lost the plot' any louder. Bore zero resemblance to the movie anymore either, barring the leads name. Didn't save the show. Didn't deserve to.