Monday, August 16, 2010

Two short-lived series to bring back happy times

I am pleased to report the release of two TV science fiction gems to DVD.

One is the groundbreaking  Max Headroom from 1987.  A cyberpunk classic, this ABC series featured notable actors such as Matt Frewer, Amanda Pays, and Jeffrey Tambor in a near-future setting that was dirty, gritty, and dystopian.  So much so, that I doubt a series could get away with such a stylization today.  No, it would have to be cleaned up and actors barely out of their teens would have to be cast in the lead roles.  But I digress.
Max was both biting and sardonic in its commentary on society.  For in much the same way as William Gibson once said about his book Neuromancer, Max Headroom was far more about the present than the future.  It also presented Max as much more than a corporate spokesman (man?), but as a forerunner in the concept of sentient AI with its origins in actual human neurological patterns.  Doubtless that rewatching the series will bring me back to the spring of 1987 and simpler times (symbolic intelligence!)

The other series is Dark Skies, a short-lived NBC project from the mid-1990s that ostensibly seemed meant to cash in on The X-Files.  Given the timing and the show's UFO subject matter, it's not difficult to see how such a comparison could be made.  I was only able to catch half an episode before its cancellation (this was before the days of TiVo and the DVR) and wrote it off as the X-Files carbon copy that everyone else thought it was.
But I've read more about Dark Skies in recent years and I've come to find that the series really did stand on its own.  Set in the early 1960s, the show uses the assassination of John F. Kennedy as its jumping off point, claiming that the President was whacked to prevent UFO disclosure.  The full extent of the government cover-up of an alien presence on Earth then unfolds through the eyes of a naive Congressional staffer and all of this is seen the cultural milieu of the early 60s.  Megan Ward from Trancers and Jeri Ryan from Star Trek: Voyager are regularly appearing cast members.

Thanks to the home video distributor, Shout! Factory, I can now relive and enjoy an old favorite as well as perhaps rediscover a new one.  Dark Skies comes to DVD next January.  Max Headroom is available now.

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