Friday, August 10, 2007

Saviour Of The Universe

When I was 8, what was the latest incarnation of the "Flash Gordon" character came out as a big screen movie. With my tastes a bit less sophisticated than today and in that "Star Wars"-"Superman"-"Star Trek" movie phase of my youth, I thought it was the coolest thing imaginable.

Then I grew up. Watching the film a few years later on cable, I saw how awful and campy the movie really was.

Then I saw it a few years after that, and came to appreciate the absolute cheese-fest that was the 1980 version of "Flash Gordon" for sheer virtue of its campiness.

So when Sci-Fi announced a new "Flash Gordon" TV series, I was at least curious to see what they would come up with. After all, Sci-Fi turned the cheesy '70s hit "Battlestar Galactica" into one of the best and most critically acclaimed shows on TV.

Alas, having watched the first two episodes of "Flash Gordon" last night, I am sad to report that the network has not caught lightning in a bottle once more.

First off, unless there's a drastic change from the DVD I was sent (and I must point out the DVD was lacking most of the sound, music and visual FX tonight's pilot will have), the new TV series (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) does NOT use the great Queen theme song from the movie, despite all the promos which have the song.

Second, the series tries to be "Buffy"-like in an attempt to blend humor with action, but fails to live up to the challenge. The dialogue comes off as pretty flat, and there isn't a terrible amount of action in the first two episodes.

Flash (Eric Johnson) is a marathon champion whose scientist father seemingly died many years ago during an experiment. His ex-girlfriend, reporter Dale Arden (Gina Holden) is engaged to a cop. Meanwhile, mysterious alien sightings are popping up everywhere, and Flash meets his father's former assistant, Zarkoff (Jody Racicot), who tells him that his father didn't necessarily die, but instead fell into a spatial rift.

Soon, Flash and Dale find themselves falling through one of the rifts and are transported to the alien world of Mongo, ruled by Ming the Merciless (John Ralston), obsessed with finding something called "The Imex." Flash and Dale barely escape Mongo, but are trailed by a variety of alien bounty hunters in search of The Imex.

I didn't care for Ming at all. Instead of being Ming the Merciless, he comes off as Ming the Really Big Jerk. All of the actors are extremely good looking, but none gives any sort of depth to their character.

I haven't given up on Flash Gordon yet - after all, the 1930s version starring Buster Crabbe inspired a young George Lucas to write "Star Wars" - but I don't see this series being more than a Flash in the pan.

CONGRATS, LITTLE LEAGUERS: In case you missed it, Warner Robins captured the Southeast Regional last night to earn a spot in the Little League World Series. While I'm certain our sports staff will enthusiastically report on their exploits, I'll also continue to list their various TV appearances on ESPN and ABC here.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Before the 90-minute debut of "Flash Gordon," "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) moves into a new time slot, one hour earlier.

I did you loyal dozens a grave disservice by failing to mention a great new miniseries on BBC America, a modern update of the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde story called "Jekyll." James Nesbitt ("Murphy's Law") stars in the dual role of a desperate scientist and his alter ego, definitely a guy to steer clear of.

Nesbitt is amazing in how he creates two separate characters, even altering his physical look when he switches. So for those who didn't catch the debut last week, the good news is that it's being repeated Saturday at 2 p.m., with the newest installment starting at 8 p.m. If nothing else, you need to catch the scene where Jekyll/Hyde go to the zoo.

Speaking of great miniseries, "The Company" (TNT, Sunday, 8 p.m.) continues this weekend. Hopefully, you caught Part I. The series stars Michael Keaton, Chris O'Donnell and Alfred Molina (or, Batman, Robin and Doc Ock as I like to think of them).


zodin2008 said...

I am sorry to hear that "Flash" was only so-so, oh well, I will record the pilot and at least check it out.

I haven't watched the first 2 hours of "The Company" but I will proably check it out during the afternoon tomorrow and get caught up.

Phillip Ramati said...

You should check out both The Company and Jekyll.

Jonathan said...

I've seen the pilot for "Flash" already; I got a hold of it a couple of weeks ago. I'll admit I didn't find it terrible, but it didn't really hold my interest all that well either. Your comparison to "Buffy" is dead on. It's amazing that Joss Whedon seems to be the only one to balance that fine line of smart ass humor and horror/fantasy/sci-fi. He's done it so well with three different television series and one movie. The people that have tried to duplicate it haven't even come close ("Charmed" for instance and now "Flash Gordon").

I also am a fan of "Jekyll" much more so than the BBC's overated update of "Robin Hood." However, "The Company," while fairly entertaining in the end left me a little cold. I have a feeling I will still watch the rest of it, but the first part just didn't do it for me. Have a great weekend, guys.