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Friday, 22 February 2008 08:23

X Files, The

The Truth Was Out There ...


USA - 1993-02 - 202 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Created by Chris Carter, The X-Files starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as two FBI agents, the true believer Fox Mulder and his sceptical partner Dana Scully, investigating unsolved cases that dealt with strange phenomena that defied rational explanation.

Inspired in part by Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Invaders, whose stars Darren McGavin and Roy Thinnes would make guest appearances in the show, and shot with pseudo-documentary styling, The X-Files veered between monster-of-the-week shows and alien abductions. As the series progressed, Carter and the writers began to put together an extended mythology, triggered by Mulder's initial search for his abducted sister.

Involving alien hybrids, clones, relentless shape-shifting bounty hunters, sentient black oil and killer bees, as well as super-soldiers and numerous inside sources who had their own agenda for helping Mulder battle the Cigarette Smoking Man (who was the point man for a large multi-national syndicate working toward eventual alien colonisation), the ongoing storyline rarely segued into the continuing stand-alone episodes, giving the series a schizophrenic feel. Additionally, the growing cast of supporting characters were not fully utilised.

After Duchovny cut back on his appearances, before leaving the show in the final season, Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish were drafted in to help Anderson's Dana Scully, who also began to take a back seat role. Having created this large, far-reaching mythology, the various plot threads were either forgotten or abandoned, rather than seamlessly woven together, and the series never reached its full potential.

The often-talked about second big-screen movie has plenty of loose ends to tie up - not an easy task when they will also need to make the project stand on its own as a piece of fiction in its own right, for the audiences who were not beguiled for nine seasons on television.

David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully
Robert Patrick as Special Agent John Doggett
Annabeth Gish as Special Agent Monica Reyes
Mitch Pileggi as Asst Director Walter Skinner


Posted in Series Formats
Friday, 22 February 2008 07:59


An equal battle of the sexes ...


USA - 1985-89 - 67 episodes (60 mins) - colour

On the surface a typical romantic comedy drama, Moonlighting was built around the love-hate relationship between mismatched partners thrown together to run a down-at-heel detective agency. Bearing a passing resemblence to the earlier Remington Steele, which Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron had previously worked on as writer and supervising producer, what made this series different were the innovations it brought to the screen.

Conscious of its own formula, the ironic nods to television's predictabilites took in-jokes to a new level; referencing both high and low-brow culture, jamming contemporary dialogue into iambic pentameter in a Shakespearean parody in one episode, and shooting in black and white - in the style of MGM musicals and Warner Brothers gangsters movies - to solve a forty-year-old case in another. But more than anything, Moonlighting effectively demolished the Fourth Wall, which let the characters start episodes by reading viewer's letters, discuss ratings or even comment on the number of reruns between new episodes.

The meticulous nature of Caron's approach meant that Moonlighting never managed to produce the requisite 22 episodes per season. During its turbulent production it wasn't uncommon for the scripts, twice normal length for a one hour production to accomodate the fast paced, razor-sharp dialogue that harked back to Howard Hawks' "My Girl Friday" and "Bringing up Baby", having to be rewritten at the last minute, with locked copies of the episodes delivered only hours before airtime.

Of all the rules the show broke, the one that lead to its eventual downfall was the resolution of the "will-they-won't-they?" aspect to Maddie Hayes and David Addison's relationship. Caving in to audience pressure for the consumation of their romance, once the characters slept together the main source of narrative tension evaporated.

Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes
Bruce Willis as David Addison
Allyce Beasley as Agnes Dipesto
Curtis Armstrong as Herbert Viola


Posted in Series Formats
Friday, 22 February 2008 07:55

Man from UNCLE, The

Détente heats up the Cold War ...


USA - 1964-67 - 105 episodes (60 mins) - B&W/colour

The most successful of many attempts to jump on the James Bond bandwagon in the Sixties, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was actually conceived during a meeting with 007's creator, Ian Fleming, and producer Norman Felton who was looking to bring the spy thriller format to television. Although Fleming bowed out before production, the initial ideas were adapted to create U.N.C.L.E., the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, located on New York's Lower East Side behind an innocuous tailor shop.

With the Cold War at its peak, pairing the smooth, stylish American Napoleon Solo with the quietly efficient Russian Ilya Kuryakin produced the détente the public was looking for. With the two countries now allied, a new villainy appeared in the form of T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity).

Played with tongue-in-cheek charm, the various 'Affairs' the duo were sent on by the direct orders of their superior Mr Waverly were essentially formulaic in execution with an innocent member of the public caught up in the plot, hindering then helping the U.N.C.L.E. agents. But the charm came in the outrageous nature of T.H.R.U.S.H.'s dastardly plans, the high calibre of guest stars, and the technical gimmickry and sometimes outlandish hardware Solo and Kuryakin had at their disposal.

By the third season the show had reached its peak and the humour became much broader, descending into outright comedy. It also came up against anti-violence pressure groups. But for a time, opening Channel D ushered in a thrilling diversion to a turbulent decade.

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo
David McCallum as Ilya Kuryakin
Leo G Carroll as Alexander Waverly




Posted in Series Formats
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