Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

I've been watching Y: The Last Man on Hulu, and I'm having trouble understanding the state of the world.  I get that the message of the show, as specifically noted by the comic, is that men still control several sectors so that, if they all died, would leave a shortage of qualified (and also inexperienced) women to handle things.  I know they've talked about power grid failures and riots and all that.

But why are the cities empty?  Why are blocks full of suburban houses completely abandoned?  Boston has 675,000, 52% of which are women.  And the only ones that stayed in the city are rioters and military?  They moved 300,000 women into camps?  Wouldn't it be easier and safer to have people remain in their homes instead of transporting them and having them live in, what, tents somewhere?

Endgame had a similar premise - half of a population disappears.  And while I'm sure there was chaos and rioting and power failures, it seems like society continued.  The Leftovers worked on a similar premise, although on a much smaller scale.  I'm sure there would be confusion and fear and violence, but I don't feel like the world would look like the zombie apocalypse.  Probably martial law and food shortages and power outages, but I figure it'd look more like a post-hurricane city than the Walking Dead.

Am I crazy here?

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

I don’t think it’s presented this way, but one reason to abandon the largely populated areas would be the mess.  With all of the other problems created, would it be easier to clean up 300,000 dead men in Boston or just go somewhere else?

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

And now the original “Law & Order” returns:

https://bleedingcool.com/tv/law-order-o … season-21/

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

I think it was maybe shown that way in New York?  So that's possible.  At least with Endgame, they were all vaporized.

Is it a lack of military personnel?  From some lazy research, the military is about 20% women.  It'd be higher in some countries and much lower in others.  I'm assuming martial law could keep order, but maybe there isn't enough military to keep order?

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

TemporalFlux wrote:

I don’t think it’s presented this way, but one reason to abandon the largely populated areas would be the mess.  With all of the other problems created, would it be easier to clean up 300,000 dead men in Boston or just go somewhere else?

There's lots of infrastructure in the cities.  Why rebuild all that?

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Slider_Quinn21 wrote:

I started and finished "Umbrella Academy" from Netflix.  I thought it was pretty fun, and I'm looking forward to another season.  Has anyone else seen it?

I finished the first season and the first episode of the second.  I'm a little hesitant to proceed, as the over-glorification of the 60's and making the Kennedy assassination the lynchpin of all history are tropes I despise.

I found the lack of cell phones in 2019 in season one to be distracting.  I realize the whole plot would have ended by the third episode if the characters had them, but that's an indictment of the writers rather than the technology.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Unfortunately I find myself in agreement with you both.

Universal don't really even seem keen on any spending at all, regarding most of it's IP's as just a form of passive income and a potential asset value in the event of a sale or merger.

I think that unless Torme succeeds in his endeavours, then the future of Sliders remains with us the Fandom to create new content and remind people that the Setting and Franchise exist.

The Lego Sliders that IB mentioned that @Cez had made intrigues me, I was unaware it existed so will definitely check it out.

On that note though....

I watched some of an animation called RWBY by Rooster Teeth. The Animation is striking, but not really all that impressive in terms of detail. It reminds me a lot of the visuals from the early Noughties PS2 Games "Star Ocean: Until the End of Time" & "Rogue Galaxy".

An Artist friend of mine explained to me that it is or was actually made using something called "Miku Miku Dance" aka "MMD".

So I was thinking.... We could put aside our SOD (Suspension Of Disbelief) to enjoy Lego renditions of Sliders, with an entire Fanbase arising with RWBY that was made with Dated Graphics/Visuals....

So maybe we as Fans of Sliders could work with something like MMD?

Sure it is imperfect, but could offer possibilities that may not otherwise be possible.

If nothing else it shows that Cel Shading using MMD is a viable form of Animation that can be consumed.

It also makes me think of the Amateur Fan of Zelda that used the Game "Total War" to make his own RTS Game composed of the many Races and Factions from the Legend of Zelda series of Games.... He since progressed beyond "Total War" as a Game Engine and even creates his own Cut Scenes with much better Visuals.

"It's only a matter of time. Were I in your shoes, I would spend my last earthly hours enjoying the world. Of course, if you wish, you can spend them fighting for a lost cause.... But you know that you've lost." -Kane-

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

My recent purchase of the German SLIDERS standard definition blu-ray set has me wondering if all upscaling options might be a complete and total waste of time for home video distributors. AI upscaling is great for fans trying to improve poor home media. But surely studios could simply re-scan their existing video masters at the highest possible level of fidelity and put them on blu-ray / HD streaming services without the compression that was once needed to release this content on 8GB DVDs.

If the video masters are a good quality standard definition file, the uncompressed rescans won't look like full fledged high definition, but they will look above and beyond the limits of DVD storage. Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS benefitted from excellent video quality when their 35mm and 16mm film were transferred to videotape for editing and effects. They look great in uncompressed standard definition blu-ray files. Season 1, sadly, got a fuzzy film to tape transfer and looks a bit dull.

For the most part, I think it is very likely that most 90s shows that were shot on film and edited on video exist on videotapes that look as good or better than the uncompressed Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS. Paramount doesn't want to rescan all the film for DEEP SPACE NINE or VOYAGER and rebuild all the effects because THE NEXT GENERATION had poor blu-ray sales. That makes sense, but why not rescan the completed episodes from videotape at maximum bitrate and put them on streaming? They wouldn't be HD, but they would be more on the HD side than on the SD side.

We all have a common impression of the upper limits of DVD video quality and of poor VHS quality, but it's clear from the Season 2 - 5 blu-ray of SLIDERS that these video masters, despite being on tape, have excellent visual depth, detail, sharpness and clarity that home video distributors had to downscale to fit onto DVD discs. Master tapes are not high definition videos, but they can exceed DVD and reach within striking range of HD.

My God, I just watched "The Guardian" in 640x480 on the blu-ray and I can see the blades of grass beneath young Quinn's feet as he defeats his bullies. Resolution is just the container for the video and with SLIDERS after Season 1, that container is filled to the brim.

THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK is a terrible Mill Creek DVD release that crunched down the video files to at times 200 MB per episode; a blu-ray release could have let the standard definition files be rendered at 1GB per episode and with a fairly modest price increase, even with Mill Creek's bargain basement approach to blu-rays.

BABYLON 5 and LOIS AND CLARK are two shows that might have been better off with rescanned videotapes rather than rescanning the original film. Both shows feature effects that exist only on videotape and not on film. As a result, any time there is a special effects shot in the HD releases of these shows, the video quality becomes jarringly blurry in contrast to the sharpness of the film sequences. A videotape rescan would have been cheaper and the video quality would be consistent throughout.

Recently, STARGATE SG-1 was released to blu-ray in something resembling HD. The show was, like SLIDERS, shot on film and edited on videotape for the first seven seasons, and the blu-ray is apparently the 480i STARGATE SG-1 DVD releases, AI upscaled to 1080p in resolution. It's also been subjected to various filters to reduce film grain, screen out compression, increase pixel contrast, etc.. https://www.gateworld.net/news/2021/03/ … than-dvds/

Reviews indicate that it's fine, acceptable, enjoyable and consistent. But it might have looked even better if they'd scanned the tapes, made full use of 44GB discs to leave the episodes as uncompressed as possible -- and then left them alone.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

I'm starting to wonder if in this world of releasing TV shows from the 1960s - 2000s in new formats, we need some more categories besides SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition).

SD: This is standard definition video and primarily refers to 480i video as found in interlaced DVD releases. Within the SD category would be:

SD-LF: Standard Definition Low Fidelity. This is video like the Mill Creek DVD releases of pretty much anything where adequate video files have been hypercompressed to fit on the smallest and cheapest DVDs to fit entire shows onto a small number of discs to hit an extremely low, direct-to-bargain bin price point. SD-LF video is covered in compression artifacts under which is a blurry image that looks more like a dull approximation of a TV show than the show itself.

SD-MF: Standard Definition Medium Fidelity. This is standard definition 480i video that has been moderately compressed, standard across most DVD releases of the late 90s and early 2000s where the video has been compressed to an extremely middling level of quality. Most DVD box sets of entire seasons had a middling level of video quality because each disc had to hold slightly more than a two hour movie and the files had to be compressed, but were still of sufficient quality to be watchable and even mildly upscalable on an HDTV. GILMORE GIRLS, BUFFY and ANGEL would be considered SD-MF. SLIDERS from Universal would barely make the grade.

SD-HF: Standard Definition High Fidelity is where a DVD only needs to hold 1.5 to 2 hours of video and can therefore have bit rate higher than DVDs needing to hold 4 episodes of a TV show. SD-HF reaches the limit of what video quality a file could hold while still fitting onto a standard definition video medium and being decodable by a DVD player as a DVD. Any single film release on DVD fits into this category.

SD-UF: Standard Definition Ultra Fidelity is where standard definition video files are encoded with a higher file size than what could actually fit onto DVDs or standard definition storage media and beyond what could actually be decoded by a DVD player. While still a standard definition image in terms of resolution, SD-UF video has a level of video quality in sharpness, detail and clarity that exceeds what is possible on a DVD. To qualify as SD-UF, such video must be scalable from 480 pixels high to 1080 pixels high without any perceptible loss of quality when viewed at sofa to TV distance. The only example I've seen of this is, um, the German blu-ray set of SLIDERS.

HD: High definition video, refers to video that is 720 or 1080 pixels high. Within this category is:

HD-A: High Definition Approximate. This is standard definition video that has been upscaled to 720 or 1080 pixels high via machine-learning developed algorithms that are trained to recognize any conceivable form of texture that might appear in a video (grass, skin, clothing, sky, etc.) and remove any blur, distortions or artifacts over these textures that result from compression or scaling the video to a larger size. This is an attempt to make a standard definition video seem closer to high definition through upscaling rather than rescanning the original film elements. The STARGATE SG-1 blu-ray release of Seasons 1 - 7 were produced this way.

HDF-SDFX: High Definition Film and Standard Definition Effects. These are video files where the live action sequences have been rescanned from film for a high definition image. However, any sequences involving special effects applied in post are taken from the standard definition master tapes. The distinction between high definition live action and standard definition may be jarring to some viewers and algorithmically upscaling the effects does not change this categorization. LOIS AND CLARK and BABYLON 5 are HDF-SDFX.

HD-S: High Definition Scan is when a video file is high definition through a high definition scan of the original elements. Examples include the HD versions of DAWSON'S CREEK, QUANTUM LEAP and CHARLIE'S ANGELS.

HD-FXR: High Definition with Effects Reconstruction is when a show is rebuilt from rescanning the original elements, but all the special effects are recreated for high definition as opposed to being retransferred from the original elements. HD-FXR shows include STAR TREK and STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION in which the original film was rescanned to HD, but all the effects were remade and the original effects merely served as reference.

HD-DG: High Definition Digital in which the video is HD because it was shot digitally in the first place. Examples include the post-Season 7 seasons of STARGATE SG-1 and most modern TV shows.

410 (edited by RussianCabbie_Lotteryfan 2021-10-03 09:10:52)

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

ireactions wrote:

My recent purchase of the German SLIDERS standard definition blu-ray set has me wondering if all upscaling options might be a complete and total waste of time for home video distributors. AI upscaling is great for fans trying to improve poor home media. But surely studios could simply re-scan their existing video masters at the highest possible level of fidelity and put them on blu-ray / HD streaming services without the compression that was once needed to release this content on 8GB DVDs.

If the video masters are a good quality standard definition file, the uncompressed rescans won't look like full fledged high definition, but they will look above and beyond the limits of DVD storage. Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS benefitted from excellent video quality when their 35mm and 16mm film were transferred to videotape for editing and effects. They look great in uncompressed standard definition blu-ray files. Season 1, sadly, got a fuzzy film to tape transfer and looks a bit dull.

For the most part, I think it is very likely that most 90s shows that were shot on film and edited on video exist on videotapes that look as good or better than the uncompressed Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS. Paramount doesn't want to rescan all the film for DEEP SPACE NINE or VOYAGER and rebuild all the effects because THE NEXT GENERATION had poor blu-ray sales. That makes sense, but why not rescan the completed episodes from videotape at maximum bitrate and put them on streaming? They wouldn't be HD, but they would be more on the HD side than on the SD side.

We all have a common impression of the upper limits of DVD video quality and of poor VHS quality, but it's clear from the Season 2 - 5 blu-ray of SLIDERS that these video masters, despite being on tape, have excellent visual depth, detail, sharpness and clarity that home video distributors had to downscale to fit onto DVD discs. Master tapes are not high definition videos, but they can exceed DVD and reach within striking range of HD.

My God, I just watched "The Guardian" in 640x480 on the blu-ray and I can see the blades of grass beneath young Quinn's feet as he defeats his bullies. Resolution is just the container for the video and with SLIDERS after Season 1, that container is filled to the brim.

THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK is a terrible Mill Creek DVD release that crunched down the video files to at times 200 MB per episode; a blu-ray release could have let the standard definition files be rendered at 1GB per episode and with a fairly modest price increase, even with Mill Creek's bargain basement approach to blu-rays.

BABYLON 5 and LOIS AND CLARK are two shows that might have been better off with rescanned videotapes rather than rescanning the original film. Both shows feature effects that exist only on videotape and not on film. As a result, any time there is a special effects shot in the HD releases of these shows, the video quality becomes jarringly blurry in contrast to the sharpness of the film sequences. A videotape rescan would have been cheaper and the video quality would be consistent throughout.

Recently, STARGATE SG-1 was released to blu-ray in something resembling HD. The show was, like SLIDERS, shot on film and edited on videotape for the first seven seasons, and the blu-ray is apparently the 480i STARGATE SG-1 DVD releases, AI upscaled to 1080p in resolution. It's also been subjected to various filters to reduce film grain, screen out compression, increase pixel contrast, etc.. https://www.gateworld.net/news/2021/03/ … than-dvds/

Reviews indicate that it's fine, acceptable, enjoyable and consistent. But it might have looked even better if they'd scanned the tapes, made full use of 44GB discs to leave the episodes as uncompressed as possible -- and then left them alone.

Regarding the reduced compression of the video assests on the german release, and your post in general, do you think the 1.6 gigs per episode really is showing the full capacity of what is possible, or is there still some image loss?  Because these blu-ray distributors still are trying to reduce the number of discs they have to put in the package, to maintain some profit margin.  Discs may be 30 or 40 cent cost.  And I wonder if we are still losing what would be noticable quality difference because of this compromise?

Not sure what the process is like for rescanning tapes.  But I really wonder how well organized some of the studios are.  Do they have all the tapes?  Is it a hassle to find them?  Did film stock get lost in fires?  Pretty sure any special effect files are GONE.

I think the studios have limited machines, limited people and limited time.  Rescanning or upconversion, or video processing, or all the other things that come w/ these projects became not worth their time if the title is not significant enough.  Maybe in some cases their is some profit to be made, but it's not big enough vs. what else they could be working on, using machines for etc.

And they don't tend to be willing to outsource this work readily to smaller operations, or they give potential licensing partners a hard time on licensing fees.  Take someone like Shout Factory.  They could do a great job on a sliders blu-ray but Universal in negotations probably won't price the license reasonable enough to make it worth Shout's while.  And Universal, out of habit, doesn't want to do super small deals... as it sets a bad precedent.  I bet even Mill Creek may have lost money on their DVD release.  I doubt it quite sold what they may have expected.  It wasn't aimed at hardcore fans, who already owned it. But the everday person shopping at wal-mart, who may have remembered the series and were OK  with a twenty dollar spend.  I just doubt it hit that market particularly as well as maybe Mill Creek may have expected.  But that's off topic.

I think what studios are missing, in not working w. smaller players to upgrade content, is in the streaming era, your library matters.  And if it looks like shit, how do you expect it to perform?

From what I understand, the production facilitites at the studios get territorial about this work being outsources, because they want the money, budget and work for the content at their studio and its IP.  So smaller actors who can do this work dont get the jobs, and the title is too small, and it gets lost in the fray.

Re-scanning the tapes might be an excellent idea though.  I do think a re-scan of the negatives w/ upconversion on effects shots should be done on anything you want to put on streaming nowadays.  And then find a way to make the content "new".  Get the actors to provide commentary tracks etc.  Support podcast rewatch series.  And bake it into your streaming service.  Make it relevant.  Let people have a conversation around the content.  Similar to what Gil is doing with The Prisoner, that tracy has appeared in episodes of.  Just make an ecosystem out of it.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

RussianCabbie_Lotteryfan wrote:

Not sure what the process is like for rescanning tapes.  But I really wonder how well organized some of the studios are.  Do they have all the tapes?  Is it a hassle to find them?  Did film stock get lost in fires?  Pretty sure any special effect files are GONE.

Well, there was the Universal backlot fire of 2008 which destroyed the Chandler Hotel facade:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/VPV7-IqrXhgnznYD1gM1Lm2-oOen6v_Av3yd4bQ8gBJaspBaxFfYvn9DeRHookABbMKIN-MEACOvXihPH2fD4RALHpcZ-LMLDIPlO4deuYYUQL3CHB7EYwh5PDqw-ofubtI

You can see The Chandler in flames beside that truck.

The fire spread from there to the King Kong attraction and the non-descript building next to it - the film vault.  You’ve actually seen the Universal film vault and may not realize it.  In season five’s “The Great Work”, the great work itself, consisting of a large corridor of shelves, is in fact the interior of the Universal film vault.

We’re told that no film was destroyed in the backlot fire, but they gloss over what happened to the original music masters of the Universal Music Group which were stored in the area of the film vault.  The masters (encompassing material from some 500,000 titles) were destroyed:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/maga … dings.html

According to UMG documents, the vault held analog tape masters dating back as far as the late 1940s, as well as digital masters of more recent vintage. It held multitrack recordings, the raw recorded materials — each part still isolated, the drums and keyboards and strings on separate but adjacent areas of tape — from which mixed or “flat” analog masters are usually assembled. And it held session masters, recordings that were never commercially released.

The collection included a wide range of artists including Louis Armstrong, Buddy Holly, Bing Crosby and Chuck Berry all the way to more modern artists like Eminem, Aerosmith, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

So many valuable cultural treasures just gone..... Painful is what that is.

"It's only a matter of time. Were I in your shoes, I would spend my last earthly hours enjoying the world. Of course, if you wish, you can spend them fighting for a lost cause.... But you know that you've lost." -Kane-

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

omnimercurial wrote:

So many valuable cultural treasures just gone..... Painful is what that is.

It was a shame, but it's also like mehhhh.  Basically every musical artist's Wikipedia page has the same entry, so and so was among those who lost their master tapes.  For 98% of these artists, the masters were never going to be used again.  The music has been remastered up, down, left, right, over and over again.  There's nothing left to do.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Grizzlor wrote:
omnimercurial wrote:

So many valuable cultural treasures just gone..... Painful is what that is.

It was a shame, but it's also like mehhhh.  Basically every musical artist's Wikipedia page has the same entry, so and so was among those who lost their master tapes.  For 98% of these artists, the masters were never going to be used again.  The music has been remastered up, down, left, right, over and over again.  There's nothing left to do.

I was more thinking of things like cut content, unreleased tracks etc.

"It's only a matter of time. Were I in your shoes, I would spend my last earthly hours enjoying the world. Of course, if you wish, you can spend them fighting for a lost cause.... But you know that you've lost." -Kane-

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

This is... interesting
https://nerdist.com/article/stargate-re … antis/?amp

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

One show that seemed to suffer a lot of SLIDERS' problems: THE DEAD ZONE. This 2002 - 2007 TV series was an adaptation of a novel by Stephen King that had been previously adapted to film in 1983.

I've always wondered why THE DEAD ZONE, a brilliant, visionary TV show fell apart so badly. Seeing lead actor Anthony Michael Hall in a supporting role in HALLOWEEN KILLS last week made me look back.

Examining THE DEAD ZONE's history now, it seems to come down two specific areas. First, the original showrunner reduced his involvement to almost nothing and wasn't there to maintain his vision due to a mild case of death. And second, the show went from a major(ish) broadcast network in UPN to a cable TV channel (USA Network), and a cable TV network had great difficulty in funding a show created for a much more expensive business model.

Star Trek Staffers
THE DEAD ZONE was brought to TV by two STAR TREK: NEXT GEN and VOYAGER writer-producers: Michael Piller and Joe Menosky. Piller had a reputation for highly detailed characterization, Menosky made a name for himself writing bizarre high concept science fiction. This partnership made DEAD ZONE a bizarre procedural drama-comedy in which schoolteacher Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) develops tactile psychic abilities where touching any object or person brings visions of the past and the future.

Bold Enterprise
Season 1 debuted on USA Network in June 2002. These first 13 episodes were a lavish visual banquet as Johnny's visions were rendered in stunning special effects sequences: frozen landscapes, morphing, slow motion surroundings with Johnny moving at normal speed, showing Johnny peering backwards and forwards in time and using his knowledge in the present to prevent harm, violence, injury, loss and other horrific events that would almost happen but would be averted by a good-hearted psychic.

THE DEAD ZONE could be a cop show, a romcom, an espionage thriller, a disaster film, a high school drama, a hockey movie -- all filtered through the lens of the psychic. The show was a ratings hit and renewed for a second season of 13 episodes on USA Network that began in January 2003, eagerly capitalizing on the popularity of the first season. The show seemed to be stepping towards a very bright future.

Season 1 had been so successful that USA Network ordered another 13 episodes for Season 2. Judging from Season 2, the budget was the same and likely even a little higher to accommodate the cast salary increases that would have come with a second season. And this January to April 2003 season was so successful that UPN ordered another six episodes for Season 2 to air in the summer from July to August 2003.

A New Captain
At this point, THE DEAD ZONE hit personnel problems. Joe Menosky had moved on. And worse: visionary showrunner Michael Piller was extremely sick.

Piller had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer years ago but kept working on VOYAGER and launching new shows like THE DEAD ZONE and rewriting every DEAD ZONE script before filming. But he was apparently too sick to run the writers' room anymore; the thirteenth episode of Season 2 was his last.

Writer Karl Schaefer, creator of hyper-eccentric shows like EERIE INDIANA and STRANGE LUCK, was brought in as Piller's replacement. It was kept quiet; Piller retained his executive producer credit and was promoting the show, but Schaefer was now in charge of THE DEAD ZONE's writers' room with some consultation from Piller.

Turbulence
The extra six episodes under Schaefer were hit and miss: there were three episodes that delved deeply into the strangeness of Johnny's powers romantically, in terms of espionage, and in visions of the distant future. However, there were also three standalone episodes that were entirely standalone containing no running arcs and no ongoing character elements.

The three on-brand episodes seemed like THE DEAD ZONE as its usual self. But the three standalones seemed like what one would expect for a cable TV show: inexpensive, assuming a casual summer audience that might not be inclined to follow the show too closely and avoiding any elements that would carry into another episode. They were oddly conventional for the creator of EERIE INDIANA.

The First Budget Cut
USA Network ordered a third season of THE DEAD ZONE for summer 2004, but these 13 episodes under Karl Schaefer showed further changes to the series format and production model. While they aired in the summer like Season 1 and the additional six of Season 2, the budget had been cut. The second female lead of the show had been dropped, her character disappearing without explanation. In addition, the lavish special effects for Johnny's visions were absent from five of the episodes, a budget-saving measure that wasn't present in the show's first 26 episodes.

Episodic Isolation
The format also shifted. Season 1 and 2 had started many arcs: Johnny's gradual discovery of his powers and new applications of his abilities, visions of a distant and apocalyptic future, investigating a deranged politician who became a recurring character and was the catalyst to the future Armageddon that Johnny had foreseen. While Armageddon was only the focus of two episodes in Season 2, Johnny's investigation into the matter was featured prominently throughout Season 2.

Season 3 abandoned this ongoing approach: the Season 3 premiere and finale two parters would focus on Armageddon; the episodes in between would not address it outside of one mention. Ongoing arcs like Johnny's rising fame, his need for a security system to protect him from stalkers, his increasing relevance to US intelligence agencies, his increasing control and widening application of his psychic powers -- all this vanished. The show switched to crimes of the week with little to no personal development for Johnny's character or the Armageddon arc.

The change was jarring and frustrating; Season 2 had kept working at the Armageddon arc; Season 3 refused to acknowledge it for the bulk of its episodes. Season 3 was now structured episodically with standalones -- much like most cable TV shows that aired in the summers.

Crime Prevention Becomes Crime Solving
Season 3 also featured a peculiar shift in the writing. Seasons 1 - 2 had featured Johnny Smith foreseeing some terrible event and trying to prevent it. Season 3 changed to Johnny trying to solve crimes after they had happened.

Numerous writers from Seasons 1 - 2 were still working on the show; it seems evident in retrospect that this preventative approach in plots had come from Michael Piller rewriting his staff's scripts for the first 26 episodes of the show. Piller was no longer able to do so and Schaefer's approach could not maintain Piller's sensibilities nor did USA Network wish him to.

Why was USA Network refusing to fund THE DEAD ZONE at its full budget when it was so successful? And why did they force THE DEAD ZONE into a rigidly standalone format?

Cable vs. Broadcast
Looking at the show now, THE DEAD ZONE was too expensive for a cable channel like USA Network.

Seasons 1 - 2 had stunning special effects, extensive location filming, large numbers of extras -- vastly exceeding the low budget procedurals and dramedies usually on basic cable like USA Network. It was shot on 35mm film except for special effects sequences which were shot digitally. What was such a lavishly produced TV show doing on a cable network?

The answer: THE DEAD ZONE had originally been ordered by UPN, a major broadcaster that went into financial and structural turmoil as it shifted from Paramount Television to CBS in 2002; THE DEAD ZONE was likely approved by the outgoing Paramount team but unwanted by the incoming CBS regime. But it was too late for CBS to get their money back. THE DEAD ZONE had been ordered, funded and 13 episodes had been filmed.

Glass Ceiling
USA Network picked it up. USA Network broadcast the first season of a show that was much more costly than the usual USA Network fare. Ratings were strong at 6 million viewers in Season 1, so USA Network renewed it for a second season at the same financial scale, hoping for even greater ratings and ad revenue.

But THE DEAD ZONE's audience didn't grow in Season 2; it remained in the 5 - 6 million range, hitting the upper limits of how many viewers it could reach on cable. USA Network didn't cancel it, but they slashed its budget for Season 3 and mandated that THE DEAD ZONE be more episodic like their other shows, allowing them to move episode orders around for ads and marketing.

Summer vs. Fall
And creatively, THE DEAD ZONE had been an odd fit for USA Network which generally aired short seasons of original content in the summer, outside the shadow of the fall debuts of major network shows.

USA Network's summer programs were oriented towards casual audiences; audiences who might watch an episode now and then if summer activities weren't in the way. USA Network's pool of potential viewers was smaller than major networks, so they wanted their original shows to require little to no familiarity with previous episodes.

Season 1's ongoing format couldn't be changed because the 13 episodes had already been finished when USA Network picked them up after UPN had discarded them. Season 2 had been funded with the hope that THE DEAD ZONE's unique qualities and unexpected success would grow.

The audience didn't grow for Season 2. For Season 3, USA Network decided to make THE DEAD ZONE more standalone (generic) and with its budget retailored to cable TV (by being cheaper).

Flickers of Life
However, Michael Piller was still involved in the season premieres and finales. For the Season 3 finale, episodes 12 - 13, Piller collaborated with Karl Schaefer on setting up a Season 4 storyline: Johnny Smith's psychic powers were killing him.

Season 3's twelfth episode had Johnny experiencing blackouts and headaches that rendered him unconscious. A doctor revealed: without brain surgery that would likely remove his psychic abilities, Johnny would die. The thirteenth episode was scripted and filmed to have Johnny suffer a gunshot wound to the head; he would survive, but brain surgery would now be impossible, meaning Season 4 would have Johnny trying to prevent his visions of Armageddon before his psychic visions killed him.

Piller drafted a Season 4 series bible to lay out the direction.

Truncation and Retooling
USA Network allowed the Season 3 finale to be filmed but then abruptly interfered; they refused to air the finale. Instead, THE DEAD ZONE's third season ended with only 12 of the 13 episodes broadcast, stalling the intended cliffhanger of Season 3.

The network renewed THE DEAD ZONE again, but with another round of financial changes. First, they ordered 23 episodes to be filmed, but it would be Season 4&5 and with another budget cut. USA Network would air the first 12 episodes in 2005 as Season 4 and the next 11 in 2006 as Season 5, getting two seasons but only paying for one, meaning they would only have to cover one year of cast salary increases instead of two.

This new budget cut also meant Johnny's psychic visions would be rendered with even fewer effects and even more infrequently.

USA Network also ordered creative changes. In 2005, USA Network had decided to focus its original programming on lighthearted, casual viewing rather than serious drama with running arcs. The term for this was "blue skies programming." USA Network dictated that the next 23 episodes of THE DEAD ZONE would match the light tone of all their other shows; they declared that Piller's intended arc for Season 4 -- Johnny racing against his failing body and impending death to prevent Armageddon -- would not be allowed.

USA Network decreed that the unbroadcast Episode 13 of Season 3 would be reshot as the Season 4 premiere -- and that Johnny's fatal medical condition was to be removed from the storyline entirely so that Season 4/5 would have only standalone episodes.

Surrender
Piller acquiesced; he oversaw the re-scripting Episode 13 of Season 3 as the Season 4 premiere. The rescripting was sloppy and clumsy and shockingly beneath Piller's usual standard, likely due to his illness.

The truncated Season 3 had ended with Johnny being diagnosed with a fatal neurological disorder that could only be treated with surgery, constantly collapsing with debilitating headaches and being hit with another headache that knocked him out at the end of the shortened Season 3.

Season 4 opened with Johnny waking up in the hospital, checking himself out, and never referring to his neurological disorder again. Johnny being on the verge of death due to his psychic visions was the (de-facto) Season 3 cliffhanger. He would die without brain surgery. This was completely forgotten and went unaddressed for the remainder of THE DEAD ZONE; the second episode of Season 4 had Johnny solving crimes in perfect physical condition with no explanation.

Strictly Standalone
The failure to address Johnny's illness was a massive, gaping hole in the series' narrative. But USA Network had demanded it. Under their rule, THE DEAD ZONE's fourth and fifth seasons were comprised of standalone episodes. There was no running characterization and no ongoing arcs.

For Season 4&5, there would be two premieres, two finales and two mid-season episodes that would address the Armageddon threat. But there would be no progression to the threat, just a reminder that it was coming at some unspecified future date. The episodes between premiere and finale had no continuity links and could air in any order.

From Creator to Consultant
Perhaps Michael Piller could have found away around USA Network's mandates; they'd likely wanted such changes as early as Season 2. He had found ways to keep the myth-arc subtle in Season 2, to have ongoing characterization across standalone episodes. But Piller had been too sick to run his show in Season 3 and was even sicker for Season 4&5.

Karl Schaefer had left after Season 3 and a new executive producer, Tommy Thompson, supposedly took charge of the writers' room Season 4&5, presumably consulting with Piller. Yet, despite Piller's name being on all the episodes of Seasons 4&5 as executive producer, Piller was barely involved.

Phoning In
According to production diaries shared with fans, Piller was so sick for Season 4&5 that he could no longer travel to the writers' room; he gave his feedback on instant messenger and video calls, and his health required that these consultations be short.

In production notes and audio commentaries, Piller's direct involvement was only cited in the Season 4 premiere and one Season 5 episode. Of the 23 episodes, only eight seem to contain Piller's touch. Only eight featured Johnny Smith trying to prevent something terrible before it happened; the rest had him crime solving afterwards.

After Season 4 aired, Piller passed away from head and neck cancer.

8/23
For the most part, Season 4&5's 23 episodes confined all emotional development and characterization to the guest-stars while Johnny and his supporting cast would receive little if any character progression at all. And with the Season 4&5 budget cut, Johnny's once lavish visions were now reduced to editing tricks and Johnny describing off-camera visions in dialogue.

Seasons 4&5 were such bland, empty, lifeless procedurals; it was a shock to see how a vividly unique show in Seasons 1 - 2 had become, by Season 4&5, so generic, so conventional, so predictable and so vacant.

Season 3 had somewhat diminished the unique aspects of THE DEAD ZONE; with Seasons 4&5, they were gone completely. Johnny's celebrity status was never referred to. Johnny's visions were no longer immersive, so there was no sense of how they affected his daily life. Johnny's professional life vanished; he was simply a psychic detective. Johnny's ongoing family issues were flattened out for the standalone. Johnny's powers were now an expository device that didn't affect him psychologically and had no impact on his relationships.

Filming First Drafts
It became clear that the original strengths of THE DEAD ZONE's writing had come from Michael Piller rewriting all the scripts in Seasons 1 - 2. And in Piller's absence, USA Network had taken their continuity-equipped, special effects spectacular show, and made it look as episodic and as cheap as their other cable shows.

It's unclear how much Seasons 3 - 5 of THE DEAD ZONE were due to incompetence or uncaring. Certainly, Piller had a gift for handling budgetary issues and mandates from above with cleverness, grace and ingenuity; it's possible that the Season 3 - 5 team had hoped for Piller's guidance only for him to be unable to give it except to a very limited extent.

Leaderless
Throughout Seasons 3 - 5, there was poor script editing leading to ongoing character threads and arcs disappearing. There was a lack of focus on the lead characters and a loss of the show's in-house style. This indicated a serious lack of leadership, suggesting that in Piller's absence, only his administrative functions had been reassigned.

It also suggested that despite Piller being too sick to work on the show anymore, no one had been tasked or empowered to take over Piller's creative role in stewarding, managing and rewriting all scripts. Instead, THE DEAD ZONE's only leader became the network's mandates.

While every show has to deal with the network, it's up to the showrunner to meet these requirements with charm, zeal, cleverness and wit. THE DEAD ZONE's third season seemed to have its actual showrunner, Piller, coming into work only for the premiere and finale. And Season 4&5 seemed to have no showrunner at all.

There was also, at least in the press, a marked unwillingness to even mention Piller's lack of involvement or illness. He was credited as executive producer for Season 3 and Season 4&5 and presented as leading the show. Producers Karl Schaefer and Tommy Thompson had their names and titles confined to the post-opening credits; every episode faded to black and to put Michael Piller's executive producer title first.

Only after Piller died was it revealed that he had been sick for years and that his work on Season 4&5 had been confined to individual episodes and via instant messaging and video calls from home.

Another New Captain
With Season 6, THE DEAD ZONE saw another budget cut for its 2007 season: filming was moved from the already inexpensive Vancouver to the cheaper Montreal. Season 3 had already laid off one regular actor; Season 6 laid off another three. Location filming became near non-existent after the halfway point of the season; entire episodes were filmed indoors on standing sets.

However, the writing took an upswing for the first six episodes. A new showrunner, Scott Shepherd, had been hired. Shepherd was empowered to lead the writers' room. The studio had been trying to hire him since Season 4, apparently, but he'd been unavailable until Season 6. Shepherd had been a staff writer on the FOX show TRU CALLING which featured Eliza Dushku as a woman who could relive the same day twice; Shepherd was an excellent choice to assume Michael Piller's position.

A New-Old Course
Shepherd's talents were instantly obvious; Season 6 opened with respectful exits for the departing cast members and a return to Johnny Smith as a crime preventer rather than a crime solver. The Season 6 premiere also disposed of the Armageddon arc in fashion that, while perfunctory, acknowledged that it had stretched on too long and wouldn't be allowed to flourish on a cable network that wanted standalone episodes.

Shepherd was able to meet USA Network's demands for episodic adventures while still incorporating ongoing character development. He steered the show back to stories with compelling applications of Johnny's psychic abilities. While he didn't have Piller's gift for characterization or Joe Menosky's inventiveness, Shepherd understood the direction and aimed towards the same goals as the originators of the show.

Out of Gas
But halfway through the season, the show went off the rails again from a production standpoint. With the seventh episode of the year, Johnny's visions were suddenly limited to editing tricks, filming was confined to as few locations as possible with no extras, location filming went from limited to non-existent and every episode became a bottle episode. The season finale was filmed almost entirely on the standing sets.

It looked like the initial six episodes had depleted the budget and left the show with almost nothing; scripts now had to struggle to write stories for a psychic without showing his psychic visions except in the limited fashion possible or to avoid requiring any onscreen visions at all. Despite valiant efforts from the writers, the lack of budget created an onscreen visual tedium.

But with the budget so low and the ratings fairly solid, the DEAD ZONE team expected a seventh season and ended their sixth year with a cliffhanger.

Dead Zone Dies
USA Network cancelled THE DEAD ZONE after the sixth season. Their brief explanation was that the show was too expensive to renew.

This meant: despite USA Network laying off four actors, moving to a filming location cheaper than Vancouver, reducing the effects budget to nearly nothing and having the show filming almost all of its last six installments as bottle episodes, THE DEAD ZONE was still too expensive for cable TV.

Why did USA Network struggle with THE DEAD ZONE's budget so much?

It was probably due to cast contracts that were signed when THE DEAD ZONE was budgeted to air on UPN. The cast salaries were likely set at a pay rate for a high UPN budget instead of a lower cable budget. These increases wouldn't have been very negotiable for the lifespan of the series; USA Network was paying surviving THE DEAD ZONE cast members more every year while trying to make THE DEAD ZONE's episodes for less.

Laying off a cast member for Season 3 and three cast members for Season 6 had allowed USA Network to keep cutting the budget for cable while still renewing the show. But after Season 6, the ad revenue was not increasing and the show was down to two original leads. There was nothing left to cut.

Fit and Finish
THE DEAD ZONE is perhaps an example of how: for a TV show to be successful and sustainable, it must be matched correctly to its broadcaster. THE DEAD ZONE was a major network show with a major network budget that proved difficult to sustain when it ended up airing on cable TV.

THE DEAD ZONE is also, perhaps, an example of how a showrunner needs to steward his staff. Michael Piller was a brilliant screenwriter and he ran his show beautifully. However, once he wasn't running it any more, the quality crashed; his approach had been to rewrite every staff script with his own sensibilities; he didn't train his subordinates to appreciate the strengths of the show and to maintain them in his absence and for three seasons, the show had no leader.

To be fair, Piller was ill even when working on Seasons 1 and 2 and may not have had the health to be a teacher, but there was also Joe Menosky who has been producing STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and THE ORVILLE as of late. A showrunner must tutor their staff so that the staff understand how to keep the show going.

It's a deep shame that THE DEAD ZONE really only has two good seasons and a scattered handful of gems across its 80 episode run. The TV show was the second adaptation of the property.

Maybe there will someday be a third.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Sliders related, the creator of the People's Court, died.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/a … ge-85.html

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Trigger Warning: In this installment of Random Thoughts, I make fun of people who use tanning beds.

One of the weirdest things about THE DEAD ZONE is how across six seasons filmed over six years, lead actor Anthony Michael Hall seems to age about 15 years. In Season 1, Hall has a lengthy mop of hair and a smooth, clear face that seems untouched by sunlight. By Season 6, Hall's face is rough and worn and lined, his complexion has darkened, his hair is trimmed short and has lost about half its colour -- which emphasizes how deep the lines on his face have become and how ragged his complexion is even with camera makeup.

The reason for this is not age, not fitness, not health: the reason is that during the fourth/fifth seasons of THE DEAD ZONE, Hall developed a peculiar addiction to tanning beds and a determination to have his skin look as tanned as possible; he also had his hair bleached to look blonder. It looked creepily unnatural. Tanning beds attack the skin with UV light to scorch the epidermal layer (which risks skin cancer); this and Hall's choice of bronzer meant that he went through Seasons 4 & 5 looking like a giant peach on legs. He looked absurd; he looked like he'd deliberately set out to burn his own skin, acid-wash his own hair and paint himself in Sunkist-hued dye.

By Season 6, the colour had mercifully faded, but the strain on Hall's complexion remained. The tanning had left Hall's face burned and weathered with the self-inflicted damage seemingly etched into his face.

I dunno why he did this to himself. This isn't like Jerry O'Connell having his hair cut and gelled and frosted at the behest of FOX; this isn't like David Boreanaz on ANGEL looking different because his knee surgery made it impossible for him to exercise; Anthony Michael Hall wanted to look orange. In the Season 4 & 5 audio commentaries on DVD, Hall will not shut up about how "my tan looks really good in this shot." It does not.

It was a bizarre choice for the character, too; Johnny Smith on THE DEAD ZONE was a minimalist. Despite being a ridiculously wealthy grown-ass man, he worked as a schoolteacher and lived with his mother. After he developed psychic powers, he was driven out of teaching and became a full time, unpaid psychic detective. Johnny Smith was a fabulously rich man who cooked his own meals (no takeout) and did his own grocery runs (no shopper) and washed his own clothes (no maid or butler) and fixed his own car (no mechanic).

Johnny was born rich and yet, he lived like his schoolteacher's salary was all he had. Johnny thought status symbols were stupid and the only things that truly made him happy were his mother and her charity work, his fiancee, teaching high school science and saving lives. Johnny never spent his time (or money) on anything outside those pursuits. Johnny Smith would never lie in a tanning bed between episodes. It made no sense. It will never make sense.

Anyway. Hall's face seems restored in HALLOWEEN KILLS; he's aged some more, but the UV-scarred look is gone. I assume that between 2008 - 2021, he drank a few glasses of water and started using sunscreen. Thank God.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

One of my favourite shows in recent years is MOM on CBS about a girl gang of recovering alcoholics. One standout character is Jaime Pressly's Jill, a high society Texan. In Season 6, Jill meets a blue collar guy, a cop, Andy. And Jill simply adores Andy. Andy is an affable, down to Earth, sincere man who looks like a pro wrestler and has the street smarts of Mallory and speaks with the gentle humour of Season 1 Rembrandt. Will Sasso plays Andy. He's great.

https://i.ibb.co/pxtqKcK/IMG-0626-1024x683.jpg

420 (edited by ireactions 2021-11-07 09:40:19)

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

On myth-arcs and masterpieces:

I'm trying to work out what episodes of THE DEAD ZONE (2002 - 2008) deserve to be upgraded from standard definition to high definition via the magic of AI upscaling. The thing is, the DVDs are in very good state thanks to the episodes being shot on 16mm film, edited on high definition videotape for the first three seasons -- then shot on HD digital and edited digitally for Seasons 4 - 6. Some episodes deserve to be shown in the splendor of 1080p. A lot of them... don't. I definitely want to upscale the episodes with high levels of special effects. The rest... I dunno.

Unfinished: THE DEAD ZONE is in some ways like THE X-FILES (1994 - 2002, 2016, 2018). Both shows teased an impending apocalypse. Both shows were largely standalone episodes. Both shows had specific myth-arc episodes dedicated to the apocalypse. Both shows had a lot of excellent mythology episodes. And both shows failed to bring the mythology to a climax and conclusion, making the myth-arc episodes seem disappointing and pointless in retrospect. The frustrating thing is that all of the mythology episodes of THE DEAD ZONE were really really really good -- but they were ultimately prologues and middle chapters without a conclusion.

Awakening: THE DEAD ZONE, coming into the world just as THE X-FILES was fading off the air in 2002, was an incremental improvement on THE X-FILES (to start) before falling into all of THE X-FILES' worst habits, and its only saving grace in that respect is that THE DEAD ZONE wasn't on the air long enough to  be as exasperating and disappointing as THE X-FILES. DEAD ZONE's first season starts with schoolteacher Johnny Smith waking up from a five year coma to discover that he has psychic powers; one touch of a person or an object handled by a person and Johnny sees that person's past, present and future in hallucinogenic (and special effects heavy) psychic visions.

Standalone (But Connected): The first season was largely standalone with running subplots. Each episode had a beginning, middle and end with its A plot while B-plots would run through the background and become an A-plot in a subsequent episode.

The B-plots were all personal elements; Johnny trying to rebuild a relationship with his fiancee who had married another man while Johnny was in his half a decade coma, Johnny dealing with his son, born during the coma and raised by his fiancee and her husband as their own. Johnny investigating his mother's death during his coma. Johnny discovering that his family estate was now in the control of a sinister televangelist preacher. Johnny discovering that the preacher whom he disliked and suspected of murder was actually a staunch and loyal ally who could be trusted.

Season 1's finale had Johnny encounter a rising politician, Greg Stillson. When Johnny shook his hand, Johnny saw America ravaged by nuclear hellfire with Stillson, a secretly violent, savage, psychotic man, at the center of this armageddon.

Standalone A-Plots, Running B-Plots: In Season 2, it's a running B-plot that Johnny is investigating Stillson's past and learning that Stillson's political success is due to bribery, threats, blackmail, violence, and likely outsourcing various murders, all of which will, according to Johnny's visions, somehow turn Stillson into President of the United States and lead to nuclear war. However, the Stillson arc was only the focus of two episodes in Season 2; the rest of the time, it was a B plot in standalone episodes with Johnny researching Stillson but setting it aside 'temporarily' to deal with the latest mine collapse or kidnapping or whatnot. USA Network wanted standalones; showrunner Michael Piller wrote the myth-arc as a subplot into otherwise standalone episodes.

Broken Silos: This was a mild distinction from how THE X-FILES handed its myth-arc where, despite an alien invasion coming in the future, Mulder and Scully never discussed it during their monsters of the week cases, only in the season premieres, the season finales, and the 1 - 3 myth-arc episodes in the middle of each season. THE X-FILES' monster of the week stories seemed to be taking place in a totally different TV show from the alien invasion episodes. In contrast, THE DEAD ZONE kept the myth-arc present throughout Season 2 even if it wasn't prominent.

Silos Rebuilt: Season 3 seemed to dial back the myth-arc's presence. Season 3 opens with Johnny chasing down a lead on Stillson and the nuclear apocalypse, but the three part season premiere shifted the plot away from Armageddon by the end of Part 1. Part 1 ended with Johnny being falsely accused of murder, Part 2 had him clearing his name (and being too busy to deal with Armageddon). Part 3 had Johnny dealing with the fallout of his accusation but didn't turn back to Armageddon. Episodes 4 - 10 of the third season then ceased to address Armageddon in any way, creating the siloed effect of THE X-FILES.

Ignoring Armageddon: It was bizarre that the end of the world was coming and Johnny Smith was not prioritizing it at all. We see a lot of this today with people shrugging at climate change and ignoring COVID-19, but Johnny Smith was supposed to be the hero. It was something I'd never seen before where in mid-storyline, a myth-arc episode shifted to a standalone arc and didn't go back to the myth-arc.

Standalones Win Out: Season 3's Episode 11 mentioned Armageddon briefly. Then the Season 3 finale, episode 12, revealed how the Season 3's first three episodes had tied into Armageddon after all -- only for Season 4's premiere to abruptly jettison and set aside the Armageddon plot again for another run of standalone episodes.

With Seasons 4 - 5, THE DEAD ZONE went into full X-FILES mode with the myth-arc; outside of the season premieres, finales and one middle episode, the Armageddon arc was not addressed or mentioned. It was bizarre; the premieres, finales and middle myth-arc episodes had Johnny stressed and worried about Armageddon; the episodes outside that had Johnny leisurely, lighthearted -- which diminished myth-arc episodes.

No Rewrites: All this happened because original showrunner Michael Piller had cancer, and in Season 3, became too sick to keep rewriting scripts. He had rewritten all the Season 1 - 2 episodes, and rewritten Season 2 episodes specifically to integrate the myth-arc, but his contributions to the show were limited in Season 3, near non-existent for Seasons 4 - 5, and he contributed nothing to Season 6 due to a mild case of death.

There seemed to be some peculiar situation where the studio didn't want to publicize that Piller was sick and therefore avoided hiring a replacement showrunner; only Piller seemed to be rewriting scripts to have arcs and running plots and he was rewriting less and less and then not at all. Only after Piller's death was his long illness and lack of involvement in his own show made public.

Anti-Climax: In Season 6, a new showrunner, Scott Shepherd, came aboard. In his premiere episode, THE DEAD ZONE concluded the Armageddon arc and in an offhandedly dismissive fashion. A key player in the Armageddon arc was killed off (off camera, then the death shown in a flashback) and Johnny's visions of Armageddon ceased. It was in some ways another insult to the mythology -- but it seemed unavoidable and necessary. USA Network was clearly not going to let THE DEAD ZONE focus on the Armageddon arc; the bulk of the show was going to be standalone, so Shepherd ended the arc. It was anti-climactic and disappointing; it was for the best as the subsequent standalone episodes were no longer viewed with the shadow of Armageddon haunting lightweight fun.

Last Gasp: The Season 6 finale was written to anticipate a Season 7, so the episode brought Armageddon back -- except the show got cancelled. However, given how easily Armageddon was cancelled in Season 6's premiere, the finale bringing it back didn't really seem like a big deal, like doomsday would always be infinitely delayed and kicked down the road.

Anyway. The result is that even though almost every single DEAD ZONE mythology episode is excellent, they're not really worth rewatching because they were ultimately pointless; the storyline received a hasty and unceremonious burial in the Season 6 premiere and a half-done exhumation in the Season 6 finale.

And sadly, most of the standalones in Seasons 3 - 5 are pretty garbage. Season 6 has a lot of good ones, though.

Diamonds in Dirt: I guess this has been a pretty good argument for not bothering to upscale the mythology episodes of THE DEAD ZONE to HD. I'll just upscale the special effects and/or character heavy episodes to HD. I shouldn't be using CPU and GPU cycles to refinish episodes of a TV arc that the TV show itself did not finish.

It's frustrating because so many individual episodes of THE DEAD ZONE were not only good, but great; not only great, but revolutionary; not only revolutionary, but truly masterful to the point of being a high benchmark of creative quality and technical achievement among television shows. The point of a television show is to create situations and characters with which the viewer can empathize. Johnny's powers were ultimately empathic and THE DEAD ZONE's finest hours let you feel what it meant to be Johnny Smith and those hours are masterpieces.

I suppose that to qualify as a masterpiece episode of THE DEAD ZONE, the episode must demonstrate astonishing creative and technical achievement either in terms of writing and performance and/or special effects, and it must be enjoyable as a standalone product. Despite so many excellent myth-arc episodes, they aren't standalone and didn't have a proper finale, so those are immediately discounted.

My personal masterpiece collection of THE DEAD ZONE in HD will be:

Season 1

  • "Wheel of Life" and "What it Seems": The masterful two part pilot episode which has Johnny discovering his psychic powers.

  • "Netherworld": Johnny is trapped in a vision of doom.

  • "The House": Johnny is haunted by visions of his dead mother.

  • "The Siege": Johnny must use his powers when held hostage in a bank robbery.

  • "Dinner with Dana": Johnny having sex leads to visions of every man his new girlfriend has ever been with.

  • "Shaman": Johnny discovers his visions can lead to conversations with other psychics who died centuries ago.

Seven masterpieces out of 13 episodes to upscale. The others were really good too, just not masterpieces.

Season 2

  • "Descent": Johnny must use his powers to save teenagers in a collapsed mine.

  • "Ascent": Johnny must use his powers to enter the mind of Sheriff Walt Bannerman, the husband of Johnny's fiancee who was injured saving the teenagers in the mine.

  • "Precipitate": Johnny receives blood transfusions from six different donors and starts having visions of six lives.

  • "Misbegotten": Johnny is kidnapped by three 'fans' of his psychic exploits.

  • "Cabin Pressure": Aboard a plane, Johnny has visions of a crash.

  • "The Man Who Never Was": Johnny has visions of a retired spy in a bad situation.

  • "Playing God": Johnny must choose who will live or die when his visions allow him to control who will get an organ transplant.

  • "Zion": Johnny's friend Bruce experiences a psychic vision of his own.

  • "The Storm": On a roadtrip, Johnny has a vision of a destructive storm and must save everyone he can.

  • "The Hunt": The CIA recruits Johnny to hunt Osama Bin Laden (yeah, really!).

  • "Deja Voodoo": Another date night for Johnny Smith with much trouble along the way.

11 masterpiece episodes out of a season of 19. Of the other eight... I would say five were good and three were rather weak.

Season 3

  • "Speak Now": At a wedding, Johnny must confront how his fiancee didn't wait for him and married another man.

  • "Shadows": Johnny has a vision of himself committing a murder and must find out what could drive him to kill. Admittedly, there is a reference to Armageddon, but not plot development.

My God. Season 3 only has two masterpiece episodes that aren't affected by the myth-arc? Just two!!!? Out of a season of 12!?

Season 4

  • "Double Vision": Johnny meets a lady psychic.

  • "Still Life": Johnny investigates a painter and has hallucinogenic visions of art.

  • "Babble On": Johnny has visions of his dead father in a hauntingly eerie episode.

  • "A Very Dead Zone Christmas": This episode is garbage, but the lady psychic comes back and Jennifer Finnigan is great.

Honestly, only "Babble On" is a masterpiece. The rest are just 'okay,' but the visions are impressive and technically qualify as letting you feel what it's like to be Johnny Smith. Well, truthfully, the Christmas episode has no worthwhile special effects, but Jennifer Finnigan's performance should be considered a special effect.

Pretty sad that only one -- one -- out of 12 is truly good and standalone.

Season 5

  • "Symmetry": Johnny is trapped in a set of overlapping visions. Possibly the greatest episode of THE DEAD ZONE ever made.

Oh my God. One non-myth arc episode worth watching out of a season of 11 episodes! THE DEAD ZONE was certainly in a dire situation. Notably, "Symmetry" was one of the few Season 4 & 5 episodes Michael Piller worked on (by sending in his notes and suggestions through AOL Instant Messenger).

Season 6

  • "Ego": Johnny must save a psychiatrist being hunted by a crazy person who could be any one of her patients

  • "Re-Entry": Johnny is recruited by NASA to save a space shuttle from destruction

  • "Big Top": Johnny investigates a murder at a circus

  • "Interred": Johnny has visions of being buried alive

  • "Switch": Johnny is trapped aboard a train with a femme fatale and danger all around

  • "Outcome": Johnny has visions of a bus station exploding

Only six out of 13 episodes worth upscaling! Hunnh. And I would only consider "Switch" and "Outcome" to be "masterpieces." They rest are above average and have points of greatness, but they aren't visionary works of television. Scott Shepherd was no Michael Piller. (Who is? I'm not knocking Shepherd, but if Michael Piller had lived, Shepherd would not have been running THE DEAD ZONE.)

After "Outcome," the show seemed to run out of money for any special effects or location shooting and the (myth-arc oriented) series finale was confined almost entirely to the standing sets. Jennifer Finnigan is in one of these Season 6 episodes and it was so boring I can't actually remember which one it was.

It's a shame. THE DEAD ZONE should have been a great show for all six seasons; instead, it only had a great two seasons and then fell badly into below average filler for Seasons 3 - 5. Season 6 should have been a great year, but it had obvious budget issues and despite half of the season being excellent, the other half of Season 6 has good scripts that made it to air as dull and boring hours of underbudgeted tedium.

Well, let this be a lesson to all of us: for a TV show to be good, the showrunner has to not die. All showrunners from now on must be contractually obligated to live with severe penalties incurred should they die.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

RIP to the great Dean Stockwell, who played the lovable Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap.  QL was for many people, me included the spiritual predecessor to Sliders.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

I am deeply invested in whether or not Slider_Quinn21 likes the new DEXTER.

(Never seen a single episode of it myself.)

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

ireactions wrote:

I am deeply invested in whether or not Slider_Quinn21 likes the new DEXTER.

(Never seen a single episode of it myself.)

Unfortunately, I don't have Showtime so I haven't seen an episode of it.  I didn't read good things about it, but I'll hopefully find a way to watch it at some point.

I still think Dexter, while having an obvious and painful dip in quality, is still unfairly beaten up in pop culture.  Same with Game of Thrones.  Were the final seasons as good as the first?  No, obviously not.  But they were still watchable, as evidence by the fact that people continued to watch them.  I also struggle with how people enjoy the ending of The Shield, where it's protagonist is punished by a forced exile from the people and places that he ended up loving but don't enjoy the same ending for Dexter.  It's the same ending.

Michael C. Hall is a great actor and the character of Dexter is fun.  The character grew and developed.  The plotlines were dumb, but they were dumb because they peaked in Season 4 and never recovered.  They also peaked because they were one of the big casualties of online fan communities crowd-sourcing plot twists.

I still think Dexter is one of the more entertaining shows of the last 20 years, and it's a shame that it's become such a joke in pop culture.  Seasons 1-4 (with season 3 being the weak link) are some of the best TV that you can find.

424 (edited by ireactions 2021-11-16 12:34:25)

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Sorry you can't see it for awhile.

Now, responding to something Grizzlor and I were talking about over in "The Return of Sliders":
http://sliders.tv/bboard/viewtopic.php?pid=12217#p12217

Grizzlor wrote:
ireactions wrote:

Grizzlor? What's Nicole Eggert like? I've always wondered.

**

So, I guess I'll see you all in Long Island in Summer 2022. Maybe my favourite actress and her splendid boyfriend will come with me.

Eggert is your favorite actress?!?  She was fairly pleasant although has also been known to party too much at cons and not answer the bell the next day, something I have witnessed ha ha.  As for the convention, I'm going to see what details I can get before giving my two cents on that.  Tracy mentioned a trip he and his wife were supposed to take to Jordan in December was going to be delayed until next June or July, so I guess that is not when such a convention would occur.

I wouldn't say Nicole Eggert is my favourite anything. That was just me being random and silly. I have always wondered what Nicole Eggert is really like and I have been regularly asking Grizzlor what Nicole Eggert is really like because I once saw a photo of Nicole Eggert with Grizzlor:

https://i.ibb.co/gWkSCm4/26253852019-e6f81a586b-o.jpg

In the 90s, I was a pre-teen boy and like many pre-teen boys, I had a sister and we bonded over a shared love of meatloaf, club soda and a pre-teen book series called THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB. My favourite of the baby-sitters was Dawn Schaefer, a 13 year old girl from California who was vegetarian, dedicated to the environment, a staunch social crusader, a devotee of living life without makeup, and a lover of the sun and the beach who found herself out of place when her mother moved her to Connecticut.

Also like many pre-teen boys, I had a television and at one point when channel surfing, I saw possibly 10 minutes of an episode of BAYWATCH where Nicole Eggert was playing a teen girl trying to pass a lifeguarding test to get a job. I never finished watching it, but I thought Eggert looked exactly like how I pictured Dawn Schaefer in my head (even though Dawn was eternally 13 in the books and Eggert was 20).

After that, I studiously avoided BAYWATCH because all the boys at school seemed obsessed with it and I hated all the boys at school and hated anything they liked. That said, I liked the look of Nicole Eggert for Dawn Schaefer.

I have never seen a full Nicole Eggert performance in anything, but she's Dawn Schaefer to me despite having never played the role and potentially not being anything like Dawn at all. Also, in the Netflix adaptation of THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, Dawn is Latinx which, to me, makes a lot of sense. The Club was always way too Caucasian and there are plenty of blonde, white girls in film and TV; Dawn's characteristics aren't tied to her skin or hair colour.

Fun fact: Xochitl Gomez played Dawn in the first season of the Netflix show, but then Marvel hired her to play Ms. Marvel in a new Disney+ series. In the second season, Kyndra Sanchez took over the role. In a podcast interview, BABY-SITTERS CLUB showrunner Rachel Shukert was point-blank asked why Dawn looked different and nobody was discussing it onscreen.

Shukert replied in a serious tone that after Season 1, Dawn went to visit her father in California and got in a horrific car accident that mangled her face and required extensive reconstructive surgery and her fellow baby-sitters were politely not mentioning it and that all this physical therapy and plastic surgery all very plausibly happened in the three weeks that passed between Seasons 1 and 2.

Re: Random Thoughts about TV, Film and Media

Wrapping up my DEAD ZONE rewatch and... THE DEAD ZONE is a strange show. Debuting in 2002, it neatly and cleverly addressed a lot of difficulties that other serialized-but-standalone shows had experienced, finding a happy balance between myth-arc episodes and individual episodes. But then it retreated from its own solutions and replicated the very same mistakes it had previously solved.

Avoiding the Trap: In reviewing the myth-arc episodes of THE DEAD ZONE -- I find that they are good. Like THE X-FILES, THE DEAD ZONE was an eccentric, paranormal procedural except the one paranormal element was Johnny Smith, a psychic detective with the ability to see the past and future of any person or object he touched. And like THE X-FILES, many of Johnny Smith's adventures foreshadowed a terrible, apocalyptic future that Johnny had to investigate and hopefully prevent.

Unlike THE X-FILES, each myth-arc story of THE DEAD ZONE brought some progress, perspective and characterization to the show and each mythology episode had its own unique tone and genre. The average myth-arc episode of THE X-FILES was a series of espionage thriller set pieces with Mulder gaining vital information or evidence on the conspiracy only to lose it by the end.

Stepping Into the Trap: In contrast, THE DEAD ZONE offered new information and development with each myth-arc installment -- although it soon fell into the same traps as THE X-FILES through a series of unforced errors. Both THE DEAD ZONE and THE X-FILES spent a great deal of effort on telling chapters in a story with no conclusion, making those early chapters pointless.

Opening Act: The first myth arc episode of THE DEAD ZONE is Season 1's 13th episode, also the Season 1 finale: "Destiny." Johnny discovers that his psychic powers fully came to life on the day congressional candidate Greg Stillson started his election campaign.

Johnny meets Stillson and upon touching him, Johnny starts having visions of Stillson somehow bringing about a horrific cataclysm with America in flames. "Destiny" is about the scope of Johnny's powers and how he realizes his life's purpose may be to stop a national, potentially global disaster.

Delayed Follow Up: The Season 2 premiere doesn't address this, showing that the vision of Armageddon was so traumatic for Johnny that it burnt out his powers for a prolonged period of time. The Season 2 premiere shows Johnny trying to find a kidnapped boy, eventually reactivating his missing powers. The premiere makes it clear: the Stillson arc is ongoing, but not the focus of the show.

Two Out of Nineteen: Subsequent Season 2 episodes have Johnny researching Stillson as a B-plot. But Stillson only becomes an A-plot only in episodes 6 and 19 of Season 2.

Season 2, Episode 6 is "Scars," a psychic political intrigue story where Johnny starts using his powers to interfere in the congressional election, trying to prevent Stillson from winning his seat.

Johnny uses his powers to help Stillson's opponent and tries to bury the man's past scandal during Vietnam, only for the opposing candidate to be moved by Johnny presence and confess of his own accord, leaving Stillson a clear path for the congressional seat.

Stillson is shown to take Johnny completely seriously as an impediment to his career and also being dangerous, violent, self-serving, reckless, erratic and savage -- but able to conceal his psychopathy. It becomes clear in this political thriller that Stillson's rising political star is not something Johnny can shoot down in one episode.

Fighting the Future: After this, the show switches to standalone episodes, but the Stillson arc continues to build as an ongoing subplot with Johnny regularly learning about Stillson's political rise. And throughout episodes 14 - 18, Johnny starts having visions of a strange man, someone he doesn't know, someone who isn't there, but it's quickly dismissed in favour of the psychic detective case of the week.

Delaying the Future: Like THE X-FILES, the DEAD ZONE myth-arc teases a future story of apocalyptic disaster, of Armageddon. And, like THE X-FILES, THE DEAD ZONE teases a story that it can never really tell. THE DEAD ZONE never had the budget to set itself in a post-Armageddon landscape,

THE DEAD ZONE's episodes are dedicated to the adventures of a psychic detective existing in a relatively normal world. THE DEAD ZONE isn't interested in changing its psychic procedural format to a post-apocalyptic timeframe, just as THE X-FILES was never going to devote the bulk of its episodes to a planet Earth ruled by aliens.

Limited Focus: It's perhaps best that only two episodes of Season 2's 19 are focused on Armageddon. THE X-FILES had so many mythology episodes about the impending alien invasion, a story beyond the budget and scope of a procedural drama, and by the fifth season, it was obvious that the invasion would always be delayed to some future date that would never arrive.

THE DEAD ZONE avoided spending too much time on foreshadowing for a story it could obviously never deliver.

Chapter Three: In the Season 2 finale (episode 19), "Visions," Johnny discovers that the strange man he's been seeing in his visions, Christopher Wey, is a fellow psychic living in the post-Armageddon future, able to communicate with Johnny in the present through their shared psychic powers.

Wey confesses: he doesn't know how Armageddon started; he was unconscious and woke up in an America ravaged by some unknown disaster, but he is a way for Johnny to find the truth. The stage is set for Johnny to devote his full attention to Armageddon.

Stepping Into the Future: The Wey character is a clever invention from showrunner Michael Piller and Season 2 producer Karl Schaefer. Wey's presence allows THE DEAD ZONE to show Armageddon in the present day without changing the setting to a post-apocalyptic situation. "Visions" is an hour of ominous foreshadowing to a terrible future that was only glimpsed, but "Visions" ends by showing how THE DEAD ZONE can depict that future onscreen in the present day situation -- while still leaving the present day intact.

THE X-FILES could never show the world after Colonization. But THE DEAD ZONE would be able to show the world after Armageddon in Season 3.

Out of Focus: Season 3 opens with a three part story: "Finding Rachel Part 1," "Finding Rachel Part 2" and "Collision," all three featuring a new character, Rebecca Caldwell.

In Part 1, Christopher Wey directs Johnny to investigate a mission person's case. Filmmaker Rachel Caldwell (sister of Rebecca) disappeared when filming material for Stillson's political campaign. Wey believes Rachel to be a flashpoint in Stillson's future and the impending cataclysm. Johnny investigates only to find Rachel's dead body and the police arrest him for murder.

Also, Johnny discovers that each vision of Christopher Wey has affected his memory: he cannot account for his whereabouts during Rachel's killing, he has no memory of where he was or what he was doing in the hours after each vision of this ally from the future.

"Finding Rachel Part 1" is structured like any psychic detective case of the week from Seasons 1 - 2 except Wey's guidance adds a more desperate edge to the story and the entire situation suddenly collapses on top of Johnny at the end.

Out of Sight: Part 2 switches to Johnny trying to clear his name with Johnny's path to innocence further challenged when his psychic powers make it impossible for him to pass a lie detector test (his visions set off the readings) and his knowledge of crimes past and present now make him seem like the predator.

The focus is almost entirely on Johnny's legal issues. In addition, Johnny is thought guilty of Rachel's murder by almost everyone except Rachel's sister, Rebecca, who is inspired by Johnny's decency and develops romantic feelings for him.

"Finding Rachel Part 2" is a strong DEAD ZONE story. It is a strong Johnny Smith story. But it is not an Armageddon story. Wey is shown briefly as being unable to contact Johnny any further due to a situation in the future, and while Johnny's name is cleared, the Wey arc is dropped and also strangely, the episode never resolves who actually murdered Rachel Caldwell, although the implication is that it was Greg Stillson (who wins his congressional seat).

Out of Mind: And with third part of the story, "Collision," the story moves to Johnny's budding romance with Rebecca, the sister of the murdered Rachel Caldwell. And the case of the week centers around a vehicular accident. It has nothing to do with Armageddon.

It's a good episode, but also truly jarring. Season 3 doesn't focus on the myth-arc; seems to actively steer away from it, won't even permit it to be a subplot like in Season 2..

Quality? Both parts of "Finding Rachel" are taut, capable stories. The first is a missing person's case with a disturbing connection to Armageddon (that isn't fully explored). The second is Johnny's powers proving to be a liability when he's being investigated for murder. "Collision" is a stunning exploration of vehicular trauma. But all three episodes had Armageddon as a starting point and all three seem designed to dodge it in favour of standalones.

Out of the Way: It's understandable that focusing every episode on Armageddon is not sensible; a summer cable TV show like THE DEAD ZONE needs to allow for casual viewers. But the Wey character allowed THE DEAD ZONE to show and explore the post-Armageddon future while still having standalones.

Yet, Wey vanishes from the story in Season 3's second episode and THE DEAD ZONE never ventures further into the world after Armageddon. And with the fourth episode of Season 3, THE DEAD ZONE drops ongoing serialization of its myth-arc.

Armageddon is not referred to again until Season 3's 11th episode in a passing remark. The promising avenue of Christopher Wey is dismissed as a dead end. In fact, the next eight episodes after "Collision" seem to think that Johnny's top priority is cases of the week instead of an impending and cataclysmic disaster.

Absent Arc: On the original airing, Season 3 was truly mystifying. Showrunner Michael Piller, having so diligently woven the myth-arc into the standalones as a subplot in Season 2, seemed to completely abandon that approach for Season 3's 12 aired episodes.

Years later, it would be revealed that Piller had become extremely ill towards the end of Season 2 with Karl Schaefer, taking over Piller's administrative duties for the last six episodes. Schaefer remained as showrunner for Season 3, but it is clear that Schaefer was for whatever reason not empowered to assume Piller's role in rewriting all the standalone scripts to feature the ongoing arc.

Resurgence: The 12th Season 3 episode and the season finale, "Tipping Point," however, brings the seemingly abandoned plot elements of the Season 3 opener back into play. Johnny has a vision of his Season 3 love interest, Rebecca, murdering Greg Stillson, believing he killed her sister. This potential future ends the threat of Armageddon.

Speaking to the Future: As Johnny searches for alternatives, he discovers his psychic powers are causing brain damage that require surgery that will likely remove his powers but save his life. Johnny has to decide whether or not he can lose his powers, but then he has another vision of Christopher Wey. Wey wants Johnny to speak to someone.

This someone is revealed to be Johnny in the future, Johnny after Armageddon, decades from today.

The future Johnny tells the present Johnny that he must allow Rebecca to murder Stillson and die in the process. Johnny seeing his future self proves so traumatic to his brain that he collapses.

Purposeful: Unlike the three part Season 3 premiere, "Tipping Point" is clear and focused: it has Johnny contemplating the deliberate removal of his powers to save his life. It has Johnny presented with a chilling option for ending Armageddon by sacrificing Rebecca's life and the randomness of "Finding Rachel" now seems filled with intent and "Tipping Point" is a story of terrible choices and sacrifices and the uncertainty of any choice when every person in Johnny's life seems threatened either immediately or in the near future and even Johnny himself is running out of time.

Suggestions: It is never stated onscreen, but the implications after "Tipping Point" seem clear enough: the future Johnny used Christopher Wey in "Visions" and "Finding Rachel" to steer the present Johnny towards the Rachel Caldwell murder.

The future Johnny knew that Rebecca would come to believe that Greg Stillson murdered Rachel. The future Johnny sought to create an assassin who would murder Stillson before Stillson triggered Armageddon.

Implications: In addition, Johnny's memory loss and bouts of unconsciousness are due to future Johnny deliberately rendering him incapable of interfering in future Johnny's plot. The future Johnny failed to avert Armageddon. Now he is trying to change the past by reaching backwards in time with his psychic powers.

Not Dead Yet: The appearance of the future Johnny, alive after Armageddon, also makes it clear that Johnny's psychic powers are not dangerous to his brain; the future Johnny is clearly not dead, meaning Johnny's present day health issues are due to future Johnny inducing them through their psychic connection.

Johnny's deleted memories in "Finding Rachel Part 1" led to him being wrongly accused of murder and forming a bond with Rebecca; Johnny being knocked out by his visions in "Tipping Point" allowed Rebecca to decide to murder Stillson without Johnny to get in the way.

Split Paths: It's here that the myth-arc of THE DEAD ZONE takes another peculiar turn. Season 3 only aired 12 episodes. But 13 were shot. The original Season 3 finale, "Tipping Point Part 2," had Johnny accusing Future Johnny in dialogue of all of the above -- except for causing Johnny's health problems, although the mere existence of Johnny in the distant future indicates his supposedly lethal neurological condition isn't so lethal after all.

Original Ending: "Tipping Point Part 2" ended with Johnny's interference in Rebecca's assassination attempt proving tragic: she would fail to kill Stillson and be shot to death by police. Johnny himself would suffer a gunshot wound to the head; he'd survive, but the bullet remained lodged in his brain, possibly affecting his visions.

Race Against Time: The plan was for Season 4 to have Johnny dying, not from his future self hurting him, but from the damage caused by the unremovable bullet in his brain, meaning Johnny would now be desperate to prevent Armageddon before his time ran out.

Changes Before Broadcast: USA Network refused to broadcast "Tipping Point Part 2", deeming it too dark and depressing and also an impediment to their preference for future episodes to be standalone. The episode was rewritten and reshot into the Season 4 premiere, "Broken Circle."

The New Ending: In "Broken Circle," Johnny wakes up in the hospital. He refuses to get the brain surgery that would save his life. He experiences no further health issues. He pursues Rebecca to stop her from assassinating Stillson for Rachel's death.

It's revealed that Stillson's father is actually Rachel Caldwell's killer, fearing that her documentary work had captured proof of voter fraud. Johnny reveals the truth to Rebecca and she ceases trying to kill Stillson; her life is spared, but Stillson survives as well, meaning Armageddon remains on track.

"Broken Circle" was also rewritten to bring a new character into the myth-arc, a mysterious Malcolm Janus who becomes one of Stillson's top advisors.

Contradictory: "Broken Circle" is a myth-arc episode that is extremely capable as a standalone hour and as a chapter in the myth-arc. It's a chase episode: Johnny is falsely accused of trying to kill Stillson when he's trying to save his life and it's Johnny doing THE FUGITIVE as he flees federal agents, jumps off bridges, gets into foot chases -- all of which show Johnny in perfect health. He has several visions; none harm him. The implication is that only far future visions cause his health problems.

Unharmed: However, Johnny has a final confrontation with Future Johnny. Johnny accuses his future self of manipulating him to turn Rebecca into an assassin and his future self confirms it. But Johnny suffers no ill-effects from the vision when previous far future visions knocked him unconscious and put him in the hospital.

Undiscussed: Johnny never accuses his future self of causing his health problems. Johnny never refers to how he was dying one episode ago. The future Johnny makes no effort to incapacitate his past self despite having done so in "Finding Rachel Part 1" and "Tipping Point." The plot point is simply not addressed as though the creators hoped the viewers will forget about it.

Unstated: The viewer could infer that Johnny's awareness of his future self now makes it impossible for his future self to control him, erase his memories or knock him unconscious -- but this is never stated anywhere onscreen.

Treatment vs. Script: Curiously, the "Broken Circle" story treatment clearly states that Johnny's health is steadily diminishing with each scene, that he's struggling physically, that each vision is draining, that the final vision of Future Johnny knocks him out, that Johnny realizes at the end that each far future vision has been the problem and that he has to cut off contact with the future to heal his body.

Johnny's Health: And yet, the treatment calls for so much physicality from Johnny: running and jumping and diving -- it would have been difficult for the actor to perform both feats of strength and speed and portray Johnny's ailing health. The outline is severely at odds with itself and the final script elects to ignore Johnny's health problems entirely.

The Showrunner's Health: "Broken Circle," despite being exciting and enjoyable, shouldn't actually qualify as a good episode of television; the leading man was hospitalized and at death's door one episode ago only to become an action star now without explanation.

It is bizarre that the usually brilliant showrunner Michael Piller oversaw the conversion of "Tipping Point Part 2" into "Broken Circle." These obvious oversights show how severe Piller's health problems must have become at this point.

What Myth-Arc? THE DEAD ZONE after this Season 4 premiere went dark on the myth-arc. For six weeks, THE DEAD ZONE decided that Johnny's top priority would be crimes of the week, a bizarre choice when anyone Johnny might save would still be doomed to die in some horrific holocaust.

Vanguard: THE DEAD ZONE would not address Armageddon again until the seventh episode of Season 4, "Vanguard," in which Johnny discovers that one of his former science students, Alex, will create a missile guidance system that is some key piece of the nuclear war that is Armageddon, a nuclear war that will be brought about by Greg Stillson when Stillson is President of the United States.

Johnny tries to sabotage Alex's work, is exposed; then tries to tell Alex the truth -- and Alex is killed when trying to destroy the technology. At the end, Johnny mourns his student while the mysterious Janus is able to retrieve the guidance system.

Standout: "Vanguard" is a powerful hour, a tale of sacrifice and responsibility, and about the inevitability of technological advancement. It is one of the finest episodes of the series. It is a much darker hour than other Season 4 episodes and bizarrely out of place with all five lightweight episodes before and after it.

Saved: The next Season 4 myth-arc episode is the 11th and final episode of Season 4, "Saved," in which Stillson's fiancee goes missing and Stillson asks Johnny to help find her. Johnny at first refuses to help Stillson only to discover: if Stillson and his fiancee aren't reunited, Armageddon will not happen. Stillson's fiancee is a key step to Stillson becoming President of the United States.

Cliffhanger: Johnny attempts to appear to help without actually doing so, but his efforts fail and Stillson's reunion with his future wife puts Armageddon back on track. Johnny is further disturbed when he goes home to discover that Malcolm Janus, Stillson's advisor, left a Bible in Johnny's bedroom, a Bible that Janus touched to allow him to plant a vision for Johnny, a vision where Janus invites Johnny to join Stillson and use his psychic powers to help Stillson acquire political power.

Inversion: It's a dark, disturbing and truly effective myth-arc episode and season finale. Johnny is put in the unusual situation of being a psychic detective trying to keep the case of the week unsolved. And Janus is terrifying, raising the stakes of the Armageddon episodes unlike any before. Janus is masterminding Stillson's rise to the White House. Janus somehow understands Johnny's psychic powers. Janus somehow knows how to create visions. Worse, Janus seems to know how to maneuver Johnny to prevent him from interfering.

"Saved" is one of THE DEAD ZONE's finest hours with a truly unnerving lead-in to Season 5.

Interruption: "Saved" receives no follow up in the next episode. The next episode ignores "Saved"; instead, it is a lightweight Christmas episode aired between Seasons 4 and 5 that doesn't address the Season 4 finale at all.

It is a confusing choice and reflects a certain disinterest in the viewing experience. Strangely, this trend has become somewhat common with other shows that often broadcast Christmas episodes that are set outside any ongoing arcs.

Resumed: Season 5 opens with "Forbidden Fruit" and the return of the myth-arc. The premiere has Johnny attempting to expose Janus as a security leak in the US government only to discover Janus has outplayed him and steered him into exposing a rival to Stillson's power.

Urgent Questions: Once again, Johnny is outmatched by Janus and it's unclear how Janus can anticipate Johnny's every move. The episode is a strong opener raising questions as to who this Janus person is, how Janus can be so implacable and invincible. The stage is set for Johnny to focus on the mystery of Janus as he did on the secrets of Stillson. The next episode must address Janus. The next episode ignores "Forbidden Fruit" and is about Johnny dealing with a traffic jam as though stalled cars are more important than the coming nuclear holocaust.

Ignored Questions: After the Season 5 premiere, the next nine episodes have Johnny dealing with murders and cults and heists; the end of the world doesn't seem to rank high on his list of priorities.

THE DEAD ZONE not only downplays the myth-arc, it flat out ignores its previous myth-arc episodes, first with the Christmas episode and now with no proper follow-up to the Season 5 premiere. Even when a myth-arc episode demands immediate follow-up, the next episode is a standalone with no continuity on Armageddon.

Vortex: There is one exception to this in Season 5's middle-season myth-arc episode: "Vortex." Oddly, "Vortex" is not actually about the myth-arc at all and offers no progression for the arc beyond Stillson's rising political star mentioned as continuing to rise, a fairly repetitive point of non-development.

And yet, "Vortex" is a strong episode and opens with Johnny upset and worried about the impending Armageddon (despite having not even mentioned it for the last six episodes). Later, Johnny is investigating a doomsday cult after he has visions of them using landmines and killing a child.

Doomsday: Johnny 'joins' the cult and they learn about his visions of Armageddon; Johnny must save the cultists before the leader detonates the entire compound. The story has a framing sequence where Congressman Stillson questions Johnny about his role in the cult; the episode ends with Johnny able to save all the cultists from their leader and hopeful that having prevented one doomsday, he can prevent another.

Incorporated: "Vortex" is excellent. In some ways, "Vortex" reflects how future shows like SUPERNATURAL would incorporate standalone episodes with arc episodes; the standalones would be thematically relevant to the season-long arc even if the standalone wasn't relevant in terms of its plot.

However, "Vortex" is an outlier and all other Season 5 standalones seemed to take place in some alternate THE DEAD ZONE continuity where there was no impending nuclear disaster. The next two episodes after "Vortex" were standalone cases of the week with no references to Armageddon.

Helpless: Season 5's 11th and final episode is "The Hunting Party" in which Johnny tries to stop the assassination of the US Vice President and fails, leading to Stillson becoming the new VP. It is a powerful, frightening, conspiratorial episode. It is effective in its plot and disturbing in its bleak presentation of Johnny seeming powerless against Stillson and the mysterious Malcolm Janus who manages to manipulate Johnny into only being a witness to a murder he cannot stop.

The episode ends with Janus appearing in Johnny's house again, warning Johnny that if he doesn't join Stillson, he will die. Never has Johnny seemed so helpless, his powers so utterly useless. Janus is manipulative, masterful, powerful.

Stalled: And yet, "The Hunting Party" makes it clear that despite this episode being strong, the myth-arc has become irrelevant.

Janus already visited Johnny in "Saved" and proposed a partnership; the next episode immediately switched into a lightweight Christmas episode and ignored the previous installment. "Forbidden Fruit" ended with Johnny defeated by Janus; the next episode had Johnny cheerfully attending a fireworks festival without any mention of it.

There is no reason to think "The Hunting Party" will be treated any differently by a show devoted to standalones.

Posturing: Janus ends "The Hunting Party" -- and Season 5 -- by telling Johnny that the assassination of the US Vice President was "A preview. The opening act of the greatest drama ever conceived by a man. An epic tale born of victory and penned in blood." He remarks, "Think it over, John. It's almost showtime."

But Janus' threatening, portentous words only indicate how the Armageddon never get past being "a preview" and an "opening act," constantly declaring it to be "almost showtime" without the show ever actually arriving. THE DEAD ZONE clearly never wants to tell that story. THE DEAD ZONE's myth-arc episodes are the most exceptional hours of THE DEAD ZONE, but the bulk of the show avoids acknowledging their existence.

Stillson being one step from the US presidency is irrelevant. Stillson could become God Almighty in one episode and the next one would still ignore it and focus on a standalone case of the week.

A Delayed Solution: Season 6 of THE DEAD ZONE opens by ending the Armageddon arc in a single episode. The seemingly masterful and all-powerful Malcolm Janus is abruptly killed off; Johnny's visions of Armageddon cease upon Janus' death.

There is no explanation as to how Janus could be so in control in Seasons 4 - 5 and so easily dispatched in Season 6's premiere. It is rushed; a five season arc is dismissed in one episode. It is dismissive; all of the clues and hints and details about what would bring about Stillson's nuclear war are irrelevant to this ending. It is clumsy; Johnny plays no role in Janus' defeat at all.

It was necessary for Season 6; Seasons 4 - 5 had made it impossible to take Armageddon seriously any longer. With Armageddon gone, Season 6 could tell standalone episodes unburdened by the threat of nuclear disaster. No longer would Johnny's victories be made pointless by the myth-arc. The Season 6 solution seems to come rather late; it might have been best to do something like this as early as the Season 4 premiere.

A New Start: Season 6 starts a new arc, one about Johnny Smith's father and family legacy. The family theme is suited to Johnny's character and proves effective for the standalone format, allowing characterization to run from episode to episode even if the cases of the week are isolated to each individual episode.

Two Steps Back: In the Season 6 finale, Johnny discovers that his father, long thought dead, is actually alive. In addition, his father has psychic abilities just like Johnny. Mr. Smith Senior, however, is suffering from dementia; it's revealed that the departed Malcolm Janus somehow located Mr. Smith and used him as his personal psychic. This is why in Seasons 4 - 5, Janus seemed to understand how to control and avoid Johnny's visions; this is why Johnny was defeated every time.

It's explained: between Seasons 5 and 6, there came a point when Stillson tired of Janus' control and maneuvered Janus into his death in the Season 6 premiere. The explanation is satisfying and Johnny's reunion with his addled, confused but deeply loving father is beautiful.

However, the events that lead Johnny to find his father also alter the future once again, and the once-averted Armageddon is put back on track.

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after this episode and no resolution was ever filmed.

Empty Threat: The results of this unplanned finale are a mixed bag. It is heartrending and powerful to see Johnny reunited with his father. The performances are stunning and beautiful. The episode closes beautifully with a father reunited with his son. As a single episode, this finale is extremely strong.

As a series finale, it is disappointing that Armageddon is raised once more only for the show to be cancelled. Once again, Armageddon had no ending. While the Season 6 premiere was not a satisfying conclusion, it had at least been a conclusion and the series seemed better when freed of it.

Armageddon's return here was repetitive: Armageddon had ceased to be a plausible danger long ago.

Disguised Blessing: In terms of the cancellation, Armageddon having been defanged long ago was in some ways a blessing. Despite there being no ending, Armageddon had been ignored and curtailed so repeatedly that surely in the hypothetical Season 7, Johnny would find another easy, simple solution. The arc had ended due to its impracticality on cable TV; it would have been just as impractical in the Season 7 that never came to pass.

What Went Wrong? Why didn't the myth-arc work on THE DEAD ZONE? How could it have worked?

Problematic Percentage: THE DEAD ZONE developed a serious messaging problem with its myth-arc. Most of the Season 2 episodes had featured Armageddon as a B-plot, sending the audience the message that the myth-arc mattered and was on the characters' minds. This changed starting with Season 3. In the 35 episodes that made up THE DEAD ZONE's third to fifth seasons, only nine actually mentioned Armageddon.

This means that for 26 per cent of the show, the Season 3 - 5 audience was told that Armageddon was dire, threatening, pressing and urgent, but the other 74 per cent of the episodes declared that Armageddon was so trivial that it wasn't worth mentioning.

A Confusing Message: The standalones undermined Armageddon's importance, declaring it inconsequential by never mentioning it. The myth-arc episodes in turn undermined the standalones by saying that everyone Johnny saved from car wrecks and floods and murder was still doomed to die in Armageddon.

THE DEAD ZONE was cancelling itself out long before its cancellation.

A Permanent Delay: Anyone who'd ever watched THE X-FILES knew full well that Armageddon was an untellable story that would never take place. While THE DEAD ZONE created tremendous drama and compelling stories from teasing this untellable story in Season 2, by Season 4, the tease had become predictable and avoidant.

A Story for the End: THE DEAD ZONE was also part of an era of television where showrunners acted as though if the central myth-arc of a TV show were resolved, the show would have no further reason to exist. QUANTUM LEAP never got Sam Beckett home. Mulder and Scully on THE X-FILES never exposed the alien conspiracy. Johnny Smith never stopped Armageddon. These were stories that showrunners would only tell if they knew the show was ending, rarely did showrunners know that the end was coming in advance of filming their season finales.

THE DEAD ZONE made itself dependent on knowing precisely when they'd be filming a series finale, a luxury few showrunners of the era could ever expect and one THE DEAD ZONE didn't receive.

Why Didn't the Myth-Arc Stay a B-plot? Season 2 found a winning approach: standalone episodes, the myth-arc as a running subplot, one myth-arc episode out of every 10 or so installments. Why didn't Season 3 stick with it?

The running arcs were in Season 2 because showrunner Michael Piller had been rewriting all the scripts to add running character and mythology arcs. He became too ill with cancer to do this regularly in Season 3.

But why didn't his successor take over?

Hiding: For reasons unclear, the studio did not truly appoint a successor empowered to handle rewrites and arcs during Piller's illness; they only did so for Season 6 after Piller had passed away.

Despite production diaries referring to Karl Schaefer and Tommy Thompson as "showrunner" for Season 3 (Schaefer) and Seasons 4 - 5 (Thompson), standalone scripts didn't seem to be rewritten during to incorporate ongoing arcs under their terms.

In Seasons 4 - 5, many of the standalones seemed to be first drafts from freelancers with all character development experienced by guest-stars and no characterization for the regulars.

Unempowered: There was the odd sense that no post-Piller showrunner for Seasons 3 - 5 had the authority to execute any development on the Armageddon arc or the character arcs. Certainly, the production company was reluctant to admit that Piller was ill; his cancer was not revealed until after his death and the studio's publicity materials all presented Piller as actively running THE DEAD ZONE.

After Piller died, production blogs revealed that he had less present starting in Season 3 and largely absent for Seasons 4 - 5. Only with Season 6 was the new showrunner, Scott Shepherd, permitted to develop the arc (and end it).

More For Less: There was also the manner in which Seasons 4 - 5 were filmed. In a cost-saving measure, USA Network mandated that Seasons 4 - 5 would be filmed in 4 - 5 months with a reduced budget and 23 episodes to air as two separate seasons of 12 and 11. They also mandated that all 23 episodes be completed before Season 4 had even finished airing, even though Season 5 would be broadcast a year later. This allowed USA Network to avoid paying for increased cast salaries in a fifth season.

THE DEAD ZONE's fourth and fifth season had to produce more episodes with fewer resources and less time than any previous season. To cope, production had to film episodes severely out of order based on cast availability, with cast absences scattered throughout the episode order.

Recurring guest-stars filmed episodes in a few weeks but saw their episodes broadcast years apart. This may have been why production developed an aversion to ongoing, episodic continuity. One would think that Piller would have taken the role of overseeing continuity, but he was too ill to do so.

Solutions: What should have been done? The frustrating thing is that THE DEAD ZONE had found solutions to all these issues, it simply didn't stick to them.

The myth-arc should have been maintained as a subplot through Season 3 with the Christopher Wey character used to position the standalones as relevant to the myth-arc. The myth-arc should have also been maintained through Seasons 4 - 5 in the Season 2 fashion.

Alternatively, if USA Network was disinclined to let THE DEAD ZONE focus on Armageddon, it should have been resolved in a fashion like the Season 6 premiere: a single episode or even a two-parter could end the arc and the show could start a new one that the network would actually support.

The Season 4 finale and the Season 5 premiere had crafted a storyline that could have easily served the same purpose as the Season 6 premiere.

Sadly, despite the Season 6 opener ending the Armageddon threat, THE DEAD ZONE once again backtracked from the answer to its problems and brought Armageddon back for the Season 6 finale. THE DEAD ZONE would not commit to its own solutions and kept recreating the very problems it had so deftly avoided.

Legacy: While THE DEAD ZONE is filled with brilliant, revolutionary episodes, its myth-arc defined every season even when it was absent.

It is very odd that THE DEAD ZONE surpassed THE X-FILES in its approach to serialization, but then backtracked on its innovations. THE DEAD ZONE went from doing better than THE X-FILES to being just as circular, directionless, self-destructive and pointless with its mythology.

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I watched Dead Zone for most of its original run, although I probably missed a lot of episodes.  I enjoyed it, and while the main cast were very good and experienced, it suffered from a few things.  Similar to Quantum Leap, the good guys have to battle the bad guys each episode, although it often became a bit ridiculous over time.  Tru Calling, which debuted during Dead Zone's run, was in many ways, a rip off of it.  Ironically another Vancouver show.  Again, DZ had great actors, but eventually, the Canadian filming locations just didn't work, especially as Stillson became more of a "national" figure.  British Columbia doesn't pass well enough for most of America.  It was often difficult to accept the Illuminati as the show never brought it "to scale."  I mean, how fearful could they be if everything happened in some backwater locale?  Never in a major city?

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Not to in *any* way defend THE DEAD ZONE for the indefensible way in which it handled its myth-arc, but the Illuminati was revealed in the show to be a fraud and a sham.

Season 4's premiere, "Broken Circle," introduces the mysterious Malcolm Janus, a quiet, menacing figure of seemingly limitless influence and power brought in as a "consultant" who is able to get Reverend Gene Purdy released from jail for obstruction of justice, cover up Greg Stillson's murder of his father and become Stillson's main handler -- and Janus wears a ring with the stereotypical Freemason eye in the triangle. Janus returns in the mid-Season 4 episode ("Vanguard"), the finale for Season 4 ("Saved"), and the Season 5 premiere ("Forbidden Fruit"). In all three episodes, Janus continues to steer Stillson's rise to political power and is shown to not only understand Johnny's visions, but is able to create visions for Johnny or prevent Johnny from having visions by removing any objects that might allow Johnny to get a psychic vision. However, Season 4 also shows Janus intimidating Reverend Purdy into increasing his funding for Stillson's political campaign. Janus is terrifying -- but it's odd that this supposedly powerful figure of seemingly boundless resources needs a TV evangelist's money so severely.

Also curiously: the Freemason ring, often associated with the Illuminati, is not really emphasized after "Broken Circle."

The Season 5 finale, "The Hunting Party" reveals that Janus' organization is called the Coalition for a Better America and it's actually just a small group of former US Army and special forces soldiers turned mercenaries. Janus' organization -- and Janus -- create the illusion of being a large syndicate of infinite numbers of conspirators, but it's really just six or seven people pretending to be a larger group, using Reverend Purdy's financing resources and Stillson's rising political profile for their own gain. Purdy was in jail; Stillson murdered his father; the Coalition seized both moments to control them.

The Season 6 finale (and series finale), "Denouement," reveals that during Season 2 of the show, Janus kidnapped Herb Smith, the father of Johnny Smith. Like Johnny, Herb Smith is a psychic and Janus has been using Herb's psychic visions to steer the Coalition; this is how Janus understood how to control or avoid Johnny's psychic powers, this is how Janus seemed so all-knowing -- until Stillson learned the truth and arranged for Janus to die.

That's one of the few areas where I will mildly say the show did okay with its mythology.

TRU CALLING was good. The studio and producers of THE DEAD ZONE were very impressed by TRU CALLING, especially the scripts from writer Scott Shepherd. After TRU CALLING got cancelled, the DEAD ZONE team hired Shepherd to become the lead writer and showrunner of THE DEAD ZONE's sixth and final season. Shepherd did a very good job.

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The Walking Dead - the shows I watch for....some reason?

I don't know if I've loved the Walking Dead even going back to season 2.  And yet I've watched every season.

When they announced a spinoff, I rolled my eyes.  But then the promos came out, and it promised to show the beginning of the outbreak (when Walking Dead skipped it entirely).  That's the part of the zombie apocalypse that I'm most interested in.  How does society fall like that?  Walking Dead got repetitive because it's just our band of survivors going from fragile rural encampment to fragile rural encampment.  This is going to take place in LA!

So I watched.  And a couple episodes in, they had a time jump and we'd skipped through the parts that I thought would be more interesting.  Before too long, they were going from fragile rural encampment to fragile rural encampment.  And while the show got much better when they killed off most of the season one cast and brought in new characters (including Walking Dead alum Morgan Jones), it's....fine?  I'm still watching.

Then they announced *another* spinoff about kids that were raised during the apocalypse.  I didn't really care about that, but they announced that it would be 1) revolving around the mysterious Civic Republic that would certainly tie in with the main shows and 2) it would be a limited series - 2 seasons, 20 total episodes.  So fine.  I watched.  And it was...fine?  I watched all 20.

But there's a glimmer of hope.  At the end of the final episode of World Beyond, they had an epilogue.  I won't spoil it here, but it teased some cool stuff that we haven't seen before and maybe some answers about what happened in the first place.

Damn it.