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PCR #172  (Vol. 4, No. 28)  This edition is for the week of July 6--13, 2003.
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Couch Potato Confessions by Vinnie B.
   The adventures of a boy and his personal video recorder.

The Dead Zone, or a former Brat Packer makes good
Three reasons you should be watching "the Dead Zone": Nicole de Boer, Nicole de Boer, and Nicole de Boer.

But seriously, based on characters from the Stephen King book, this series features Anthony Michael Hall as John Smith, who awakens from a coma and finds he has awakened the dead zone in his brain giving him the ability to see the future upon touching people. Hall was the geek in "16 Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" that everyone knew was never going to get to first base with Molly Ringwald. Now he has a bona fide hit on the USA network, while his brat packer cohorts are either answers to trivia questions or in rehab.

In just two seasons subplots abound, from John Smith's relationships with a feisty redheaded woman reporter and with his former fiancÚ (de Boer) who is now married to the sheriff. David Ogden Stiers stars as the slimy reverend Purdy who becomes Johnny's benefactor. And of course there is the politician Greg Stillson, played by Sean Patrick Flanery, who is going to bring about Armageddon.

The summer premiere titled "The Storm" finds our hero refusing to leave his house and questioning his mission to help people after his inability to save the life of fellow Breakfast Clubber Ally Sheedy, who put in a guest appearance in a previous episode. John Smith has to deal with the storm of his internal conflict while dealing with a very real storm that is threatening lives.

"The Dead Zone" has some creative muscle behind it in the guise of producer/creator Michael Pillar and writer Joe Menosky, both of whom worked on Star Trek Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. You will not find any car chases, or gunplay, or half naked women in this series. Just good scripts and a well developed series with subplots and character interaction. No matter how bleak an episode is, the ending comes out giving us a ray of hope. That is something we can use more of on television.

And who knows, one day they may have an episode guest starring Molly Ringwald and the geek will finally get the girl.

The complete first season of "The Dead Zone" is available on DVD at Amazon.com.

Twilight Zone Overload
In what is becoming a tradition, the Sci-Fi Channel held one of their Twilight Zone marathons over the July 4th holiday. I usually try to catch some of my favorite episodes (such as "It's a Good Life), but this time I searched the listings for some episodes that I have never seen and that featured actors who names were recognizable, many of them in early roles of their careers.

The first episode I caught was "Two". Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) play two differently uniformed soldiers, the sole occupants of a bombed out town. This is a great episode with little dialogue. I always admire a story that can be told with just images. For the first 10 minutes there is no dialogue at all and then only Bronson speaks as the Montgomery character does not speak English. This episode conveys the message that we are the same under those uniforms and turns into a post apoplectic love story.

"Nothing in the Dark" features a young Robert Redford as a wounded policeman who is reluctantly taken in by an old reclusive woman, who refuses the leave her condemned basement apartment for fear of meeting Death. A predictable ending but a good episode none the less.

Telly Savalas shows up with some hair as a mean stepfather who is taunted by his stepdaughter's doll, Talking Tina, in "Living Doll". Dolls creep me out and I don't mean Chucky. Just check out those dolls they sell on the shopping channels. I can imagine them watching me late at night, Creepy! Moral of this story: Mean stepdads should be nice to their daughter's dolly.

Young Roddy McDowell stars as a scared biologist going on a mission to Mars in "People are Alike All Over". After crash landing on Mars, he finds that people just like him inhabit the planet. They build him a replica of his earth dwellings and then in classic Twilight Zone fashion a shocker ending, albeit somewhat predictable again.

"The Old Man in the Cave" is a post nuclear war episode that finds a group of survivors inhabiting a small town. They owe their survival to the old man in the cave, who they never see, except for the town leader, and who extols wisdom about what is contaminated and what is OK to eat and drink. James Coburn shows up as a Militia type who wants to take control of the town. Coburn is excellent as the brazen military man who is out to debunk the old man in the cave and free the townspeople as He calls it. This episode deals with putting our faith in something, and the herd mentality that people exhibit when an authority figure in a uniform present themselves. This episode has another classic Twilight Zone ending and is a great parable about faith and authority in our lives.

Joan of Arcadia
What is shaping up to be one of the strangest offerings of the upcoming fall TV schedule is CBS's "Joan of Arcadia". http://www.cbs.com/primetime/fall_preview_2003/shows/joan_of_arcadia.shtml

In what looks like a cop show meets "Dawson's Creek" meets "Touched by An Angel", teenage Joan finds that God is appearing and talking to her.

I watched the video preview on the CBS webpage and I laughed out loud. The problem being is that it was supposed to be serious. This show has some heavy hitters in it, Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen, but this idea is almost too strange for me (and I am out there!). Stay tuned in the Fall for more.

Coming up Next Week: "Alternate Reality Shows and Fast Food Neighbors".

"Couch Potato Confessions" is ©2003 by Vinnie B..  Couch Potato main graphic by Vin Blesi and Nolan Canova.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.