Let’s Go Waaaay Back

Now and Again (1999-2000)

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I remember this show aired for one magnificent season, waay back in the 90s, before its very abrupt cancellation. I was totally in love with this show and it was my first huge disappointment in standard network TV. This was a little while before Firefly ever happened. At the time we didn’t have the vast internet systems in place to save worthy shows, so while there was a bit of an uproar, the show didn’t have that vast following of teens and twenty year-olds, with social media accounts, because this was before Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Interestingly enough, the show also has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so somebody’s heard of it, and been watching it. I do know that several of the episodes are available on Youtube, so check them out.

The first episode stars John Goodman, as Michael Wiseman (get it?) as a tired businessman, who gets killed on the NY subway one night, leaving behind a wife and daughter, played by Margaret Colin, and Heather Matarazzo. He’s given a brand new bionic body (sort of like Steve Rogers) in the person of Eric Close. He is now an asset of the US government, his handler played by Dennis Haysbert.

The show ended on a cliffhanger, as it was abruptly (and by abrupt, I mean absolutely no fucking warning at all) canceled, after Michael Wiseman had, illegally,  teamed back up with his wife and daughter, and would have been on the run from the US government. Its been twenty years, and I still feel some type of way about getting burned like that. I learned a valuable lesson from that, and to this day, I keep my distance from most of network TV.

I was initially interested in the show solely because of the song from the trailer. A couple of years earlier, Janet Jackson had a hit song, using the same melody that was used in the trailer, and since I loved that song (I played the hell out of that song all year), I loved the show, and I made sure to tune in to watch the opening credits, since I didn’t have a DVR back then. The opening credits are gorgeous and I think the lyrics were specially written for the show.

The best parts of the show are the dialogue, and acting, although the plots were ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt that Eric Close is a fine looking White man, and Haysbert is just icing. Somewhere somebody is shipping these two characters. I just know it! The weakest part of the show are the uneven characterizations of some of the characters, and the occasional weird plot points, that raised more questions than were answered.

I loved the show for the interaction between the characters. Haysbert’s Dr. Morris, and Michael, had the most interesting and volatile relationship, as Morris, the head of the program that created Michael, was alternately threatening and very protective of his subject. He tried desperately to keep a tight rein on Michael, but Michael insisted on interacting with his past friends and family. The Wiseman ladies are the real heart of the show, especially Margaret’s Lisa Wiseman. Colin had to carry a lot of the episodes, sometimes entirely on her own.We spent a lot of time with her, and her relationships with all the other characters is key to the mood of the show.

There’s something about all these shows that aired before Buffy that is incredibly shippable, often consisting of two handsome men, of any race, and usually  opposite  personality types, who got on, either very well together, or not so well, but with great chemistry. The two men usually spent a lot of time together, often living with each other, so that a certain level of intimacy was expected. For some reason this happened in a lot of  the less well known SciFi /Horror type shows, and this show was no exception. At any rate, you cannot convince me that at least some of these shows weren’t trying to have LGBTQ representation, in a kind of low key manner, during an era where Gay and Lesbian characters were  forbidden to be out on mainstream TV.

It was the abrupt cancellation of this show that made me start examining the making of TV shows, and start looking closer at which shows got made, which ones, got renewed, and which ones got popular, and why. I also never fully trusted the Fox network ever again, so by the time that shows like  Firefly and Sleepy Hollow were getting  canceled, I was mostly calm about it, while for other people, this was their first time getting burned by that network.

 

The Others (2000-2000)

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I’ve been looking for this series forever, having only memories of the basic plot. I remember that I liked the show, but I couldn’t remember the names of the characters, or the dates it aired, or even the title. Well, I went on an all out search recently (I really just googled the plot and linked it to IMDB) and finally stumbled across the title.

The Others is about a small group of psychic individuals that get brought together to fight some nebulous evil that eventually takes human form, and approaches them in the form of a red-eyed woman, who confronts them with their worst fears and insecurities.

The group consists of a young girl just coming into her psychic abilities, played by Julianne Nicholson, an older gentlemen, who tries to be her mentor and teacher, as he’s an old hand at interpreting psychic phenomena, played by Bill Cobbs, a handsome standup looking guy, with formidable mental powers of his own, played by Gabriel Macht, Kevin J O’Connor plays the groups resident unstable flake, and a pretty young thing played by Missy Crider, who is the only character whose name I remember, Satori. The group, which most of the time acts as a kind of support group for psychics, is led by John “Neelix” Billingsley, who, I don’t believe, had any mental powers, at all.

I clearly remember liking this show, and I was fortunate enough to find all the episodes on Youtube. The show only aired in the year 2000,  lasted for 13 episodes, and then it was quickly forgotten.

*Sigh* I seem to remember a lot of forgotten shows.

 

Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

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The Wild Wild West is another show that originally aired before I was born, from 1965 to 1969, but that didn’t stop me from watching the re-runs of the show when it aired on weekend afternoons during the 70’s. I told you about how I used to watch Westerns with my Mom, like Bonanza. This wasn’t a show she watched, but I was inspired to watch it, because I liked TV westerns, and by the time I started watching it, I was into my SciFi phase, and this show had gadgets, (and funky theme music), like Lost in Space.

It starred the very handsome, Robert Conrad as Jim West, and his smarter and less handsome partner, Artemis Gordon, played by Ross Martin. It also starred the little person, Michael Dunn, as the villain Dr. Loveless. For me, one of the highlights of the show was the technology and gadgets created by Gordon and Loveless. Jim West had clearly been modeled after James Kirk, because his job was to finesse his way out of the various traps created by the show’s villains, and romance various female characters, who showed up to distract him from his job.

In hindsight, this show is clearly in the  Steampunk genre, and yet another one of those eminently slashable shows where all of the proper elements were there but, for some reason, the show didn’t get the Spock/Kirk treatment. You’ve got two handsome White guys living together, and  a merry go round of female characters, who have no intention of ever becoming permanent, but something about this formula was just a little bit off, possibly the show’s timing in the aftermath of the cancellation of Star Trek, and the show never really took off, even though it lasted four years.

I do remember that though Loveless was the villain, none of the things he did was ever alluded to his size, and for some reason that stuck with me. He wasn’t a villain because he was  a dwarf. He was just a man  who kept coming up with  nefarious plans that Jim West kept getting in the way of.

 

 

Millenium (1996-1999)

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Chris Carter isn’t only known for having created the X-Files. He created a couple more shows that were X-Files related in the sense there was a thematic dialogue between all of them about paranoia, state cover-ups, and government conspiracies. Millennium was more along the detective show spectrum and aired during the end run of the X-Files, when Carter’s star had reached its highest point.

Millennium aired in 1996 and lasted for three years. It featured one of my all-time favorite actors Lance Henriksen of Aliens fame, as a forensic profiler, with an uncanny ability to suss out paranormal conspiracies and serial killers. This uncanny ability is presented as the ability to see though the eyes of serial killers. He was retired from the FBI and worked as a consultant for his friend, played by Terry O’Quinn, who worked in the local police department. He had a beautiful wife, and a maybe psychic daughter, named Morgan.

I remember watching the show ,and I even liked a few episodes. I was mildly upset at its cancellation, but I wasn’t too put out, as the show really had run its course, and there were times when the show was a little too grim, and dark, and gloom-filled. Since it was something of an offshoot of the X-Files, this was to be expected. America was going through a specifically angst filled moment.  Some shows are only meant to run for a specific length of time, and then stop, and it was clear that in the third season the show was trying to figure out what to do with itself.

I think one of the shows biggest drawbacks was the acting of the side characters. Henriksen’s acting  was okay, but his wife and daughter were especially cringeworthy. Everyone on the show was deeply, deeply, serious, and dedicated to never smiling about anything. Also, that whole angst filled era, in the 90s, of dark conspiracies and government cover-up-itis, was starting to wind itself up, and seem less urgent. Millennium is one of those shows that, unless you were a huge fan of the X-Files, you didn’t even know existed, or you forgot about, the moment the show was canceled.

The most memorable moments for me was a brief crossover with the X-Files ,and the show opening credits which were suitably creepy, and the shows theme song. I have a head full of theme songs from long extinct shows, and this one is at the top somewhere in my mind. The creepiness factor is something that permeated the entire show, and every character interaction, no matter how light hearted the actors tried to be.

Frank’s interactions with his wife and daughter rang false, and a lot of the characters seemed weighted down by the show’s heavy gloom. This is not a show that was ever going to last. I think audiences just eventually got tired of that level of grim and gave up on it. I gave up in the second season, only tuning in to catch the occasional episode that hinted at Frank’s daughters psychic abilities.

Frank’s denial of his abilities, by the way, were the only funny highlight in the show, as he kept insisting to people that he was not psychic. In fact, I do wonder if the creators of Hannibal the TV series borrowed heavily from this show. Frank’s abilities were never illustrated,  so I’m not sure how they worked. It was only shown that he had a strange ability to encounter killers, which he did in nearly every episode of the first season. By the second season, the conspiracy stuff starting creeping in, and by then I think the audience had simply had enough of Carter’s doom and gloom. That doesn’t mean it was a bad show. It’s definitely worth watching, but  maybe not a weekend binge-watch. Small doses is  the key here.

 

Brimstone (1998-1999)

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This show had one season and during that time made quite an impression on its fans despite its low ratings. People loved the show, and wanted more of it, but there just weren’t enough of us watching it. Satan walking around and interacting with people is clearly a very popular concept, or we wouldn’t have shows like Lucifer or Sherlock, and if this show had aired anytime in the past ten years, especially during our current social media boom, it would have taken off like a rocket.

The show’s major claim to fame was its secondary star, John Glover, who was a really hot actor in the 90s, and who played a very laidback and snarky Lucifer. The lead character was played by Peter Horton as Ezekiel Stone, a cop who ended up in Hell for killing the man who murdered his wife. When 100+ evil souls somehow manage to escape from Hell, Zeke gets suckered into hunting all of them down, in exchange for a second chance at life on Earth, and the potential of getting into Heaven. The Devil is powerless on Earth, but seemingly has no problem harassing Zeke at every opportunity, and watching Zeke grow ever more irritable, and flustered, at his interference, especially since he and the viewers are the only ones who can see him. The two of them had great chemistry, and watching their interactions is  really the best part of the show. Plus its always fun to see John Glover just be snarky. It wasn’t always snark though as the two of them would have some fairly deep discussions about Heaven, Hell, Good and Evil.

Every week Zeke would hunt down some new bad buy, the most memorable of which was the soul of the man he killed, just before the series end. There were a handful of complaints  read on a few message boards about how he was only hunting evil men, most of whom had been serial killers in the world, and some viewers wondered if there were not  female serial killers. Well the writers had to have thought of it because later in the season there was an evil female who, according to my memory of these events ,was eiter a Bonnie and Clyde type character, or some form of a Typhoid Mary. Let me look it up…

Okay, there were several women souls that were hunted and returned to Hell. One of them was a partner in a Bonnie and Clyde type situation, and the other was a Typhoid Mary type, who caused diseases and pestilence. There was also a young French girl who killed the men who raped her in 1458.

That’s another thing. The souls spanned all of history. I particularly remember Richard Brooks being in an episode as a Roman soldier, and some of the souls had backgrounds that were not dissimilar to Zeke’s, in that they were sympathetic, and did not believed that they belonged in Hell because they were righting some wrong that had been done to them, like the French girl. And there were some who were just evil.

At any rate someone put a lot of thought, not just into the interaction between Zeke and the Devil, but into the creation of these one time character’s backstories, and I thought that was pretty cool, as I wasn’t expecting that. I expected the characters to just be one thing. I didn’t expect to care about any of them. If any show that’s ever been on TV is rife for a remake, or re imagining, its this one, but as I said, it may already have been done in the show Lucifer, which also mixes crime investigation and detectives, with the Devil.

Do You Remember The Sentinel TV Series

This series aired from 1996 through 1999. I remember watching the hell outta this show. It was through this show that I rediscovered slash fan fiction, having gotten away from it, from when I’d discovered Kirk/Spock.

This was very possibly one of the slashiest shows on TV next to Star Trek. Ao3 didn’t exist back then, (although yes, the internet existed) and there was so much fanfiction written about the two male leads of this show, that there were several whole archives devoted to it. (Like 852 Prospect). You can probably still find them. I feel that in some ways this show contributed to  many of the tropes of slash fan fiction, that we find so annoying today.

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The show featured a Ranger named James Ellison, played by Richard Burgi, who lost his Special Ops team in the Amazon jungle. The sole survivor, he discovered he was a member of a mystic warrior race with heightened senses, called Sentinels, whose job it was to watch over their specific tribes. After his rescue, he goes back to Cascade Washington (really just someplace in Canada), becomes a cop, and years later, has forgotten all about his time in the Amazon, until his senses get accidentally re-awakened, when solving one of his cases. At this point he gets discovered by an anthropology researcher named Blair.To help control his superpowers, Jim adopts Blair as a  spiritual focus, whose job is to bring Jim back to reality, when he gets too caught up in whatever he’s sensing.

Now, is that, or is that not, the kinda stuff slash fiction is made of. You’ve got superpowers, spiritual bonds, mystic shenanigans, cops, a handsome and gruff older man, and a cute  and excitable younger partner. It’s like the plot of every yaoi anime ever, and I was totally here for it. This show took me to church!

The popularity of this show was not at all harmed by shirtless images of Richard Burgi in his prime, and that the show’s actors were well aware they were being ‘shipped, and were all for it. Possibly they were even playing it up, since, because of censorship, the show’s creators would have been largely prevented from showing an openly gay relationship, between the two male leads. The study of slash fanfiction was also in its infancy then, and most people wouldn’t have known anything about it, as that was very much under  everyone’s radar. To give you some idea of the timelines involved, Buffy began the year this show ended, and ran until 2003. The show Supernatural began in 2005.

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Richard Burgi was the new hawtness at the time, and Garrett Maggart, who played Blair, wasn’t too shabby looking either, and a lot of the show was really suggestive. The two of them lived together as roommates, they also worked together, because Blair said he wanted  to monitor Ellison’s superpowers, they were very touchy-feely and dramatic, everyone in their lives knew they were living together, including Jim’s ex-wife (Jim simply referred to Blair as his partner, with no other explanation to the rest of the staff of the police dept.) and the two hung out together ALL the time, and everyone seemed perfectly okay with it. This show set the grand standard for queerbaiting .

But I don’t think of this show as queer baiting because that wasn’t really much of a thing back then,  and because of the time period of the show, an open homosexual relationship couldn’t be shown. (Well, rather say that it is, in fact, queer baiting, but its the same kind of queer baiting that exists in old movies, where nothing could be explicitly stated.) Neither character had any long term love interests that the viewer knew they’d eventually end up with, and both of them spent entirely too much time standing uncomfortably close to one another, and looking into each other’s eyes. Queer baiting wasn’t a term that was used yet, but people did spend a lot of time discussing whether or not the characters were gay.

I really think this was a way for the show’s creators to get around  gay relationships not being  shown (or allowed to be shown) on prime time TV. In other words, they had to be sneaky. If you were gay, or gay adjacent, you would see it, and if you weren’t, then you didn’t, (because plausible excuses had been given for why they were not), which is entirely in keeping with the way homosexuality had always been dealt with in popular culture, with innuendo, hints, and allegations, and the show made absolutely no effort to go the “no homo” route by playing up the character’s  relationship with each other, while putting them in  endgame heterosexual relationships.

https://www.amazon.com/Celluloid-Closet-Armistead-Maupin/dp/B001NI5C6U/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1519758939&sr=1-1&keywords=celluloid+closet

It helps that there  was nothing about this show that was even remotely realistic, although if you’re not gonna quibble about the mystical aspects of the show, you shouldn’t have too many problems with other stuff on the show, such as the relationships, or how the “detectiving” was done.

Has anyone else noticed how the detectives on these shows don’t seem to specialize in any one type of detection, even though you can see that wherever they work is fully staffed? Ellison shouldn’t be working a murder case, a drug deal,  and a counterfeit jewelry op, all while trying to catch a terrorist bomber, at the same time.  Most 80’s cop shows just call for the detectives to work on whatever crime pops up that day, instead of specializing in a particular type of crime like homicide, or drugs, or something, which is not how that actually works, in big cities.

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At least several times a season Jim’s senses would go haywire, and Blair would have to talk him out of it, all while trying to keep this a secret from his commanding officer, Captain Simon Banks, played by Bruce Young, because, according to Ellison, if people found out he had superpowers, all his old cases would come up for review, and all the criminals he captured would have to be released. After all, superpowers are not sanctioned by the court system. I think this was a thinly veiled metaphor for being closeted. Jim and Blair often lived in fear that the people around them would find out about Jim’s superpowers, but neither of them cared that they looked like they were in a romantic relationship.

Simon wasn’t clueless the whole time. He eventually finds out, and keeps Jim’s secret, although I do like to wonder what he was thinking about this supposed academic following Jim around, and living with him. And Jim wasn’t actually wrong either. At the end of the series, there’s a riff between him and Blair, when Blair’s dissertation on Jim is accidentally leaked to the public, Jim is outed as a superbeing, and all hell breaks loose. Jim gets suspended. His cases all come up for review. He blames Blair for the potential  loss of his career, and civilians (and the media) are harassing him in the streets. But it all gets resolved, and the series ends on a positive note.

Since there was a mystical component to Jim’s superpowers as a Sentinel, there was a lot of references to his time in the Amazon, and a black jaguar, which appeared to be Jim’s totem animal. My biggest issue was that Jim had regular sightings of this jaguar, and I feel some type of of way about a cop who regularly hallucinates about his spirit animal. That just really bothered me. I’m dubious about the motivations of most cops when they’re completely sober, so a cop who has  visions, yeah…no! But I admit,  I really enjoyed that one episode that involved Jim’s Amazonian shaman visiting Cascade. That was kinda cool.

Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg in "The Sentinel"

 

The Powers

Jim’s hyperacute senses allow him to perceive things undetectable by normal humans. He can see perfectly in low light situations and with superb acuity at long distances, hear sounds at extremely low volume or beyond the normal range of human hearing, and sense what others cannot via taste, touch and smell; he declares himself “a walking forensic lab”. Jim’s powers have a drawback: if he concentrates too strongly on one sense, he may become oblivious to his immediate surroundings. Part of Blair’s job is preventing this, and protecting Jim when he is focusing. As a Sentinel Jim has several powers:

  • All 5 senses are strongly enhanced
  • Able to communicate with ghosts
  • Has a spirit animal, a black jaguar
  • Receives visions that guide him in the choices he makes and sometimes predict the future (Jim had a vision that showed Blair’s death before Alex killed him)
  • Used the power of his animal spirit to bring Blair back from the dead

—  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sentinel_(TV_series)#Powers

Despite my misgivings though, I genuinely loved the show, and not just because I thought Richard Burgi was the second coming of hawt and bothered, which…yeah!.  I  actually liked the premise of the show. It was inspired,  and I think it would be great for a remake.

 

Note:

Some of the best fanfiction I ever read came out of this ‘ship, and I’m sad that I never let those writers know just how appreciative I was of their skills, at that time. Most especially, Saraid, and Brenda Antrim who now goes by the name Glacis,  and has her own Wikipedia page. (She is so good that she’s won awards just for being a fan.)   Saraid’s  Panther Tales series can be found on Ao3.

 

Oh yeah, here is one of the funniest reviews I ever read about this show:

http://www.somethingawful.com/news/sentinel-show-senses/

 

The Sentinel is not currently available for streaming . All four seasons can  only be found on DVD.