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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #296  (Vol. 6, No. 47)  This edition is for the week of November 21--27, 2005.

Summary of My Fall TV Show Picks
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Summary of My Fall TV Show Picks  

In PCR #286 I discussed the debut of a number of new fall television shows that dealt with the paranormal. Almost two months into the Fall 2005 TV season, I am going to share my views on these shows.

First We Turn Back to the Fall of 2003
In the Fall of 2003 (PCR #182 to be exact), I extolled the virtues of readers to consider watching what appeared to be an exciting new TV season that in a very short time I would lament due to the cancellation of the Elmore Leonard-inspired detective series "Karen Sisco".

Based in Miami, the short-lived series on ABC television featured Sarasota native Carla Gugino as Leonard's fictitious U.S. Marshall character. After the show's cancellation, I publicly swore off in this column ever watching network TV again, due in large part to its increasingly lousy selection and heavy dependence on "reality" series.

A New Morning In America
Well, two years later I'm glad to report that my declaration was both premature and wrong -- very wrong! As a matter of fact, this television season has so far turned out to be one of the best in my memory, and possibly the very best yet for the fan of the paranormal. If you aren't watching some of these shows, you're missing a lot!

Will's Top Picks
Based on the shows I previewed in PCR #286 (with the exception of "Ghost Whisperer") here are currently my favorite of the new entries: #1: Tie -- "Threshold" and "Surface": Both of these shows are fast-paced with excellent character development. Where the government is the "good guy" in "Threshold", it is the "bad guy" in "Surface". These two series, along with the third entry, "Invasion" all involve the emergence or invasion on or of earth by extraterrestrial or heretofore unknown life forms, as well as occurrences that take place on our near the planet's oceans.

  • "Threshold". CBS, Tuesday 10:00 P.M.: Moved from its original time slot of Friday nights, "Threshold" is the story of high strangeness that occurs after a U.S. Navy vessel has a close encounter with a an extraterrestrial space craft. The craft emits a sound over the ship that "infects" the ship's personnel, killing many and grotesquely disfiguring others. These infected people are unleashed into an unsuspecting populace where they carry out an insidious campaign to infect all of earth's creatures to eliminate our race and colonize our planet. Actress Carla Gugino is her usual class act in her portrayal of government agent Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey (the show almost reminds me of the 1981 movie "Alien Contamination" which has a strong-willed female lead played by actress Louise Monroe, which a summary is featured in "Schlockarama"). Story lines are innovative and complex. This may even be my favorite of the new fall series, but regrettably its time on TV may be limited.
    Classiest Dame: Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey
    Handsomest Hunk: Peter Dinklage as linguist and mathematician Arthur Ramsey

  • "Surface". NBC, Monday 8:00 P.M., is also a fast-paced show that ties with "Invasion" in the depth chart of character development. It is about heretofore unknown oceanic life forms and the attempted cover up by government forces to hide both the existence and purpose of these creatures at any cost. Specifically, the show centers on three individuals who have had their own personal encounters with the creatures and have been driven to rationalize, a la "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" the best they can. Oceanographer Laura Daughtery, portrayed by actress Lake Bell encounters the creatures while conducting a deep sea dive off the coast of California; Good ol' boy Rich Connelly played by actor Jay R. Ferguson loses his brother to one of the creatures while the two were diving near an oil rig off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to spear fish; and Miles Bennett, played by Carter Jenkins, a teenage boy who lives off the Atlantic coast in North Carolina who finds an egg of one of the creatures that he raises into a small lizard- like entity with unusual powers that he names "Nimrod". Always enjoyable, "Surface" is a great way to start out the week.
    Most Stunning Heroine: Lake Bell as Laura Daughtery
    Most Amicable Good Ol Boy: Jay R. Ferguson as Rich Connelly
    Most Likeable Teenager: Carter Jenkins as Miles Bennett

    #2: "Invasion". ABC, Wednesday 10:00 P.M.: Brought to us by the same person who brought to us the critically acclaimed 1995 NBC TV series "American Gothic", "Invasion" is the tale of the silent invasion of the character and soul of Homestead, Florida after a hurricane brings or uncovers extraterrestrial life forms with it. One by one, people presumed drowned in the hurricane are resurrected to perfect health. Each are found bereft of all clothing but in pristine condition. Afterwards, each of these people begin to act strange and distant, some to the point of murdering those who sensed such changes in their personalities. This high strangeness occurs after multiple lights fall from the sky during the hurricane into the bays, canals and wetlands surrounding Homestead. The lights take form as glowing yellow squid-like creatures and presumably into duplications of the human bodies that they took over during the storm. The prime character of the show is Everglades National Park Ranger Russell Varon played by actor Eddie Cibrian. Russell is the most convinced that a profound change has gripped this South Florida community. Dave Groves, played by actor Tyler Labine, is Russell's brother-in-law who is a conspiratorial buff convinced that these changes are indeed extraterrestrial in nature. Larkin Groves Varon, played by actress Lisa Sheridan is Russell's wife who is a television news reporter who has stumbled upon things she shouldn't have seen in a hanger at Homestead Air Force base. Dr. Mariel Underlay, played by actress Kari Matchett is Russell's first wife, is married to the "pod-person" Sheriff Tom Underlay and is herself a victim of the storm sense changes in herself as well as encountering her own horrifying revelations. Lastly there is Sheriff Tom Underlay, played by William Fichtner, who is the heir-apparent "ringmaster" at the attempt to cover up and promulgate the invasion.
    Handsomest Hunk: Eddie Cibrian as Ranger Russell Varon
    Hotter Than a Two-Dollar Pistol: Kari Match as Dr. Mariel Underlay
    Too Cute Larue: Ariel Gade as Rose Varon

    #3: "Night Stalker". ABC, Thursday 9:00 P.M. This show ended up surprising me. As most of you know, the originally-aired "Kolchak: The Night Stalker", which was on ABC on Friday nights during the 1974-75 season, was one of my absolute favorite shows. Featuring the inimitable Darren McGavin (who was also that show's producer), as reporter Carl Kolchak, that ground-breaking yet short-lived series paved the way for subsequent paranormal series such as "The X-Files". It featured wonderful wit, humor and at times heart-stopping suspense. I was inspired enough by that series to name my 2002 black Pontiac Trans-Am "The Night Stalker"! The Carl Kolchak of today, portrayed by Stuart Townsend, is not the wise-cracking, frumpy and rough-hewn 50-something Chicago-based character portrayed by McGavin. Today's Kolchak, who works at an L.A. newspaper, is a dark, brooding and the hippest dude to strut about the camera since Don Johnson portrayed Sonny Crockett on "Miami Vice" in the 1980s. Unlike the 1974 portrayal of Kolchak, this is not a monster-of-the-week show. We have met the monster and the monster is us. This is a more violent psycho-drama incarnation of Kolchak, a la "The X-Files" (which is not surprising as former X-Files alumnus Frank Spotnitz has a hand in the production of this series) than the more light-hearted series of three decades ago. Regardless, the show is fast-paced and very intense, but is sadly not slated to make it to the end of this year.
    Coolest Dude: Stuart Townsend as Carl Kolchak
    Classiest Dame: Gabrielle Union as Perri Reed

    #4: "Supernatural". WB, Tuesday 9:00 P.M. This is what I consider the weakest of the five subject series, but seems to be getting better with each week. It is the story of two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester, who as young children experienced the loss of their mother in 1982 to supernatural forces. Their father John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dedicates his life to investigating the cause of his wife's grotesque and unexplainable demise, but ends up missing in his search. Enter his now 20-something sons who roam around in a black, late model Chevy Impala chasing after their own monsters of the week. Very formulaic, the show is nevertheless an enjoyable respite from "realty" TV.
    Handsomest Hunks: Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester.

    "La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  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 ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.