I ended up watching a lot of television over the weekend and the brightest spot was THE 4400, a six-hour mini-series on the USA Network. The title refers to the people who've been mysteriously returned to Earth after mysteriously disappearing. None have aged, even though some of them have been missing for over half a century. Some - perhaps all - have changed, though, exhibiting amazing and even frightening abilities. And not a one of them remembers what happened to them while they were gone.
The show revolves around homeland security agents Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris, Baldwin's returned nephew, a child abducted over fifty years ago, and the most romantic couple I've seen on the tube in years. Adding to the drama, on the night Baldwin's nephew was taken, his son was left behind in a coma.
The show ties neatly into our homeland security concerns and the legal questions they entail. The 4400 are kept in quarantine until a class action suit frees them. A right-wing talk show host foments fear and hatred towards the returnees; Helen Shaver gives a particularly chilling performance as said host.
The powers? Baldwin's nephew seems to able to give and drain life from animals and people. The child has the ability to see the future. A vigilante uses his enhanced agility and strength to try to clean up his neighborhood. A serial killer can command others to carry out his slaying for him.
The best performance to date has comes from Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as Richard Tyler, a black Korean War-era pilot who was abducted shortly after being beaten by his squadron mates for dating a white woman. He bonds with fellow returnee Lily Moore (Laura Allen) who is the granddaughter of his former love. Ali's portrayal of a man sometimes overwhelmed by the social progress he sees around him and occasionally embarrassed by modern sensibilities is nothing short of brilliant. This actor deserves an Emmy!
Lily's story is heartrending. Her daughter was but six months old when Lily was taken. In the ensuing eleven years, her husband remarried and has never told the girl about Lily. In fact, he's so determined to keep them apart he gets a restraining order to keep Lily from talking to or even seeing her child. Complicating things even further, Lily is inexplicably pregnant and she wasn't when she was abducted. The friendship/romance between Lily and Richard is a heartwarming element of a series that also deals with humanity's darkest impulses.
Only two episodes of this mini-series remain to be aired, but I can't see the story being wrapped up in just two more hours. Or, more accurately, I hope the story isn't wrapped up in just two more hours. There are many possibilities contained within the 4400 and their individual stories. I'd like to see them explored.
I'd also like to see the mini-series released on DVD as soon as possible. This show is a keeper!
What else did I watch this weekend?
RESCUE ME is a drama about New York City firefighters airing on FX. Dennis Leary is the star and producer. The pilot episode was excellent. I'll doubtless write about it at length after I've seen more of the series.
Turner Classic Movies showed FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN last week and I taped them all. Much to my amazement, I realized I'd never seen FRANKENSTEIN in its uncut version. I had never seen the warning advisory which preceded the movie in its original release.
FRANKENSTEIN remains a heck of a movie. We get the overacting that was typical of films of the era, but the story is so good and the visuals so striking that they overcome that. Boris Karloff's contribution should also be noted; his is a superior performance on every level and nothing short of astonishing given that his lines consisted of grunts and growls. Karloff was more than just a movie star; he was a terrific actor.
As of this writing, I'm thirty minutes into THE INVISIBLE MAN, the movie that made a star of Claude Rains. Audiences were so very forgiving back then. His performance is notable only for being a smidgen less histrionic that those of his fellow players. So far, if there is any scenery the cast hasn't chewed and digested, it has quite escaped my notice. I'll get back to you on this movie after I've finished watching it.
Let's see what else I have for you today.
Our TONY POLLS questions for last week asked you to make your picks from nominees in the categories of outstanding comedy series, lead/supporting actors in a comedy series, and outstanding variety, music, or comedy series. Here's how you voted:
I went with ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT on this one. I've never seen CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, but eliminated the others for a number of reasons: misogyny and emphasis on sex (Raymond), gays as modern-day minstrals and EoS (W&G), and EoS on sex (SatC). WILL AND GRACE is a show I really want to like, but not as much as I'd like to see more gay characters whose primary roles in various shows go beyond being gay and, by way of their gayness, being "safe" amusements for straight viewers.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT has its share of sexual humor, but it's got far more clever writing than the other nominees. Indeed, even AD's sexual humor is more of a parody of sitcom sexual humor than the actual boring thing.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Tony Shalhoub (Monk, USA).....36.11%
Kelsey Grammar (Frasier, NBC).....23.61%
John Ritter (8 Simple Rules, ABC).....18.06%
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO).....13.89%
Matt LeBlanc (Friends, NBC).....8.33%
Tony Shalhoub brings much to the tragically comic role of obsessive detective Adrian Monk, including the ability to take the character into unexpected places for choice moments here and there. I've never thought MONK belonged in the comedy categories, but my vote would be the same in the drama category. Shalhoub is the best actor on television.
I didn't think any of the nominees deserved the award, but went with Patricia Heaton because she occasionally rises above the lousy material she gets. Jane Kaczmarek has nailed her character of Lois on Malcolm, but she stopped bringing anything new to the role two seasons back.
This was a tough choice for me because I like the work of both David Hyde Pierce and Jeffrey Tambor. However, even though I loathe the show he's on, I went with Peter Boyle. He cracks me up and steals every scene he's in.
Megan Mullally is cute as a button, but playing wacky is a lot easier than playing pure evil. So I voted for Doris Roberts, as soul-destroying a harridan as I have even seen on TV. If I were writing EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, the closing episode would have the entire cast cackling insanely as they stab her to death. Then she would be rescued by her real husband...Satan. Seriously, although not *too* seriously, Roberts is an extremely likeable actress who is playing an extremely unlikeable character and making it funny as she does so. That earns her my vote.
THE DAILY SHOW is the funniest and smartest show on TV. If we had leaders as fair and as intelligent as Jon Stewart, he would have nothing to talk about on his show.
This week's TONY POLLS questions ask you to vote in the Emmy Awards categories for outstanding drama series and the outstanding actors and actress in drama series. The electronic ballot box will remain open until sometime after midnight on Sunday night. To cast your votes, go to:
Got suggestions for TONY POLLS questions? Don't be shy about sending them to me. We're limited to twenty choices for any given questions and I prefer that the questions have something to do with comics or entertainment, but that still leaves a pretty big field on which we can play. Thanks for your help.
Earlier this month, I expressed admiration for THE DEAD ZONE, mentioning that the DVDs of the series were on my Amazon Wish List. My pal MARK DOOLEY (aka De Boss of the Whoosier Network, Indiana's Doctor Who and Sci-Fi Connection) sent me a tip and his comments on the show:
Be sure to save your receipts for your Dead Zone sets. If you get both, you get a $10 rebate from Lion's Gate, and I'm not sure, but there may also be something called a "bounce card" in Season 1 that gets you a free CD with the original unaired pilot originally pitched to UPN (featuring Michael Moriarty, who was originally cast as Reverend Purdy).
I'm glad to see you're loving this show as much as I have. I'm trying to convince my brother Tim to check this thing out, but his religious convictions have somewhat closed his mind to the richness of this series. I think TDZ embraces faith in a very positive way (despite the machinations of Purdy, who is still, at heart, a good man who is in over his head and magnificently played by David Odgen Stiers. I think if he tried out some of my very favorite episodes such as "Zion," "The Flight," and the hilarious "Precipitate," he'd be on board in a flash.
"- the chilling moment when Monk, confronting the hospitalized and dying man who made and planted the bomb that killed his wife, turns off the man's morphine drip.
'This is me, turning off your morphine...'
An eternal minute passes.
'...and this is Trudy, turning it back on.'"
It gave me goose bumps just remembering it.
24 is cheap, manufactured melodrama, yet somehow addictive for all that. But Tony Shalhoub and the writers give Monk some genuine pathos, much more than more heralded shows.
MONK is popular with many TOT readers, including my pal from across the ocean, LEE "Budgie" Barnett:
Just to let you know...if MONK is on, my son Philip insists on watching it. I then spend the entire show explaining to him what's going on - not a kid's show, after all - but he loves it.
Barnett has had several stories published in the TRAILER PARK OF TERROR comics anthology, but he will be making his "big league" debut in X-MEN UNLIMITED #4, which is due to hit the comics shops the first week of August or thereabouts. Let's all give the lad a proper Yankee welcome and check it out.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: