Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Show to Watch

TV shows in general are uneven at best and as a sci-fi fan I can say TV sci-fi has issues, to put it politely. However, there are a few programs that are really worth watching and I plan on talking about them on this blog.

Starting now.

My current favorite show in any category is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. For those of you already watching this, feel free to go off and re-watch your favorite episodes. For the rest of you, let me give you the rundown. (If you're familiar with the movies, you can skip the next paragraph.)

The summary of the story is this: A young woman, Sarah Connor, meets a soldier from the future who tells her that in a few years a rogue computer called SkyNet will start WWIII and start exterminating humanity using humanoid killer robots called terminators. Her son (at that time unborn) is destined to lead the human resistance. Meanwhile the computer has sent a terminator back in time to kill Sarah. Long story short, they manage to kill the robot, have sex and get Sarah pregnant with the Future Leader of Mankind. Now she has to train him and keep him alive long enough to fight the machines.

It might be hard to imagine how to translate this popular movie franchise to the small screen, but Josh Friedman has assembled an outstanding cast including: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Brian Austin Green and Richard T. Jones. All of the actors give rock-solid performances, but two standouts are Summer Glau, who plays a re-programmed terminator sent back to protect John and Brian Austin Green, who leaves his 90210 character far behind as Derek Reese, John's uncle and a grizzled veteran of the future war.

Friedman nicely solves the problem of translating a mainly chase-oriented movie series to television in the very first episode. The chase is now a hunt for SkyNet and the series is equal parts mystery, intrigue and guerilla warfare. In the midst of all of the gun fights, explosions and brawls the Connors have to figure out how to live as a family and get sixteen-year-old John to grow into his role as a leader of men while fighting off both robots and humans.

Though the show has more than enough action, thrills, drama and even humor to satisfy the average viewer, it doesn't stop there. The acting is superb, the writing is sharp and somehow the production team is able to deliver a cinematic look on a TV budget while delivering storylines and characters that are complex, intriguing and multi-layered. This is one of those rare programs that rewards your attention.

If you want to catch up on season 1 (strike-shortened to nine episodes), you can stream them online at Hulu, download them from the U.S. iTunes store or just get the DVD box set.

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