The Premise That Refuses to Die
…but I’m beginning to wish someone would drive a stake through its wretched heart.
The venue: TV… though X-Files hit the big screen.
The premise: everything out there we can imagine, usually bad, is true. And a conspiracy… good or bad. (Yes, there are “good” conspiracies. Just think of Men in Black and the reason given by Tommy Lee Jones description as to why they don’t just let people know what’s going on.)
I didn’t watch a lot of X-Files. After a few I told my wife, Millie, “This is the same story, they just keep switching the monsters and aliens.” So I missed that delightful stage in the end where the writers get bored with their hackney premise and start… writing. It can be fun. They add a lot of stuff into the mix that, occasionally, does nothing to save a program that should have been strangled along with the idiot who suggested it.
Yeah, I’m talking to you Mr. or Ms. barely 20-something who should be looking for a real job, instead of earning more than I’ll ever earn in three or four lifetimes. (Whine, bitch, moan, pity self, then start again.)
To keep this article focused, I’m going to stick mostly with the monster side of this premise: adding just a smidgen of alien too. I suppose the first time I started switching to, instead of away, from this premise was Special Unit 2. Special Unit 2 didn’t take itself seriously. You had a smartass, strong-willed, policewoman who almost loses her job because of what she sees and does… but gets promoted: turned team member… teamed up with a smartass, chauvinistic, male partner: both seeking out creatures of the night (or day) who shouldn’t be noticed in civilized society.
Why is it I’m tempted to type that we’re probably the creatures who shouldn’t be out in the day or night? Well, these two capture and place the dangerous creatures in holding cells. There’s always some place to hold creatures, an idea stolen from Ghostbusters, I suppose. Hey, how about this? The power goes off or someone triggers the cages open in at least two or three episodes? Maybe I should write for Hollywood! That was easy! Nah, I’m, not that cheap. That’s why I’d rather write for a web-site I partially own and pay for the privilege.
Special Unit 2 , starring Michael Landes as Detective Nicholas O’Malley, Alexondra Lee as Detective Kate Benson; who almost gets kicked off the police force because of what she does and sees… then gets promoted to Special Unit 2… and the always entertaining Carl the Gnome (Danny Woodburn), started on UPN, and UPN programming was just so above this that… no, it wasn’t. That couldn’t have killed it. No, I’m sure it was the X-er factor. After all this is serious business, damn it! And the everything is true crowd wanted their “everything is true” premise taken seriously.
It was light. It was fun. I liked it. X-ers probably hated it with a passion.
So BBC responded with Torchwood.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torchwood, a far more serious endeavor where the monsters; real of course, were quite dangerous. This show had some of the best writing I’ve seen backing up this premise. It also adds in a very strong X-Filer attraction: aliens and alien tech. Far, far less monsters; more aliens.
This program starred John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harness; a man who can’t die, and Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper; police liaison. Same idea. Police woman sees and does things that almost gets her kicked off the force, only to be promoted: snatched away by a secret organization.
Didn’t I already type something like that before?
By now, a big yawn, right?
But other than the great scripting, which featured in one great episode a young ghost who had tried to get attention in life from them, but follows them around in one episode and shows how even his life had meaning, Torchwood has character development plus. Those two stars don’t always outshine the rest of the cast by any means.
Sci Fi ran it for a while and loved it so much they dumped it for the vastly inferior Sanctuary. This should have been a win win for them. Built around a proven acting commodity: Amanda Tapping from the TV version of Stargate, who plays a woman who can’t die. Gee, where have you read that before? These writers really do work hard for their money. They slapped a really bad wig, or hair coloring, on Amanda and now she sports an equally bad Brit accent. That’s bad news, cause Amanda has British roots. Is this a case where doing “American” so long and so well has ruined a lilt, or did Canada strip it from her syntax? Damn Canadians. They’re to blame for everything, or so South Park “informs” me.
Let’s all sing…
“Blame Canada, blame Canada…”
If I remember right there’s also the “someone almost got kicked off” some police-type force type element here as well.
To the writers “doing” (as in rape, I suppose) Sanctuary: hey, guys, didn’t your teacher tell you in school that to mimic others was rude? Especially when your scripting is so damn uneven and downright poor. I never did quite get the whole idea of her institute or who it served, unlike Torchwood. They tried to do it in expose’, which is a bad idea: especially when you wait more than a few episodes and then attempt to explain… again… poorly.
One can’t leave this venue without mentioning Supernatural. What sells this is not the, by now, far beyond trite premise, or that there’s no longer an institute, just two brothers who somehow manage to never get caught pretending to be FBI, CIA, Shriners, Loyal Order of the Perverted Moose… whatever the demon/devil/monster gig calls for. They don’t even bother to join some police-type force. They just pretend. It’s their dark-ish love/hate relationship that sells the show that, in my opinion, is something all brothers should identify with. These guys may save each others ghastly, Hell-ish bound, bacon a lot, but sometimes you know they wonder, “Why do I do it? He’s so damn annoying!”
They’ve also gotten to the, “Oh, golly gee, I’m bored with this, let’s add in stuff like they have been made to forget who they are, but still kind of work together” stage. That these writers seem to script quite well, considering that their using a premise so worn by now even Jack the Ripper wouldn’t bother. (“Jack” is actually one of the few semi/sort of interesting characters in Sanctuary) The religious overtones in Supernatural can get so heavy sometimes I wish I could wipe the brimstone and the far less than angelic angel puked up food off me. These “angels” are so dark I often wonder if they work for the other side like the Vietnamese used to sneak away and do.
So that’s the premise.
Now excuse me. I’m looking for a silver bullet or a stake. No, not the actors. I’m hunting writers and TV execs.