Monday, August 06, 2007


2005. CBS. Sci-fi. Carla Gugino, Charles Dutton, Brent Spiner and PETER DINKLAGE! in a show based on Warren Ellis 'ideas' (unofficially, but obviously).

Cue rock music. Nothing familiar. And nothing that rocks too hard. But if you're on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic, then you know the night air is filled with the nondescript rock. It's why radios on boats are only needed for sending out distress calls. Or for calling islands on ABC sci-fi shows.

Before getting killed by Charlie, Ethan teleported into the future to lead a group of Others on a fake Naval operation where no one needs a uniform. Unfortunately for them, this is a ship of HORROR. There's a terrible cockroach infestation, an awful rat problem and... the paint on the cabin ceiling is peeling! Also, the ocean is picking up a John Zorn song that is interfering with the rock. Even though the sound is barely audible to our ears, the sound is deafening to the dog-like hearing of the Others. Even the guy welding for fun and profit has to stop and listen.

What's causing some of these problems? The snowflake from Planetary! The snowflake even causes fish to swim in a fractal pattern! How? Presumably with infinitely smaller fish swimming about them. But don't get caught up in the actual implications of the science, this is Ellis science. It's science used to explain fantasy in a way that is only convincing to people that don't understand science (because if actual science could explain science fiction, then we would all have fifth-dimensional super powers and fish could swim in fractal patterns all the time). It's okay though, the show is on the network for old people who don't believe in evolution and who think that CSI: Miami is good.

Cut to some lecture hall.

Carla Gugino is an Irish-American Worst-Case Scenario Threat Assesment guess-maker person. Later episodes would reveal that Threshold takes place in the same world as Touch of Evil. But that's not important right now. What IS important is that Gugino is able to deliver a lecture on pandemic response initiatives with all the excitement and charisma of a non-fractal-swimming fish. She's so dull that even jump cuts in the middle of her sentences can't make it sound interesting.

A scene was deleted after the speech. In it, some dude asks Gugino out on a date. And is rejected. I don't know why the scene was rejected, but it could be that no one would believe that anyone would still be attracted to Gugino after her bore-athon. It couldn't be because her rejection was so rote, because the writers filmed it. Her rejection is, "Sure, we go out for coffee and then we chat and flirt and see each other more times and then it's intimate and things get serious and then we realize our schedules conflict and we have no time to spend together and then we break up and we're both sad." Ugh. Seriously? That made it past the first draft?

Then we follow Gugino home. And her house is teeming with character props. She never unpacked some boxes! She talks to her dog like it's people! She eats alone! Her food is pre-made and labeled! I can't remember if she drinks a glass of wine or not. She must.

Then she takes the dog for a walk when black helicopters arrive and a personality-free soldier guy tells her she's on the Global Frequency! I mean the Threshold!

Then it's the opening title card.

Time is of the essence, so the dog comes to Threshold building! Until Charles Dutton shows up and tells her that's stupid. Thanks, Roc! Of course, the building was built because of her graduate thesis on alien attack. Called Threshold? Why is a paper about alien invasion called Threshold? Because the sequels are called ankle hold and throat hold. I don't know what that means either.

Anyway, her plan involves calling on scientists who are so genious they each have slightly different personality quirks. Data is a former 60s radical! PETER DINKLAGE is a boozer and womanizer! The other guy is nervous!

So, the three quircky scientists, Carla O'Linguine, and Personality-Free soldier are on the Global Frequency and have to investigate the Planetary snowflake that has entered their dimension, off the coast of Washington DC. So, the Global Frequency must rush out there and investigate before the North Koreans find it! Off the coast of Washington, DC!

At first, they suspect that the snowflake might be a fourth-dimensional object, but later surmise that it might be a fifth-dimensional object. The quircky scientists kinda forgot that THEY were fourth-dimensional objects (although, to be fair, any of them should have been surprised to find even a three-dimensional object on the set — ba-dum-bum).

The snowflake also transforms double helix dna into triple helix dna! What does that mean? Nothing! Or, they must be bio-forming (like terra-forming) us to invade. For some reason, they want us stronger and homicidal when they come since the bio-forming invasion makes Ethan super strong, stealthy, muddy and homicidal. Thanks for giving away season four of Lost, fuckers. Why would an extra dna helix allow us to defy physics? SCIENCE!

The show comes SO close to actually working, though. Half-baked Warren Ellis ideas are great fun, because some one should do something with them (he never does!). 5 out of the six main characters have actors playing the roles, two of whom are Charles
Dutton and PETER DINKLAGE, one of whom has great tits, one is some nervous dude and one is Data! Then there's a guy who sucks ass. He's the love-interest/spy/soldier. He's really terrible, and not in a Brent Spiner, fun way. But 5 out of 6, come on! Show should still work, right?

Well... it's on CBS. So, something has to go wrong. The show was apparently created by some guy who's only previous credits were working on Average Joe (the more-fake reality show), Bragi F. Shut (no, really). But, the idea still seemed sound (even to CBS), so they brought in experienced people to make this the next Lost. Who did they bring in?

Brannon Braga (all later Star Treks except DS9... seemed like a good writer when teamed with Ronald Moore, turned out to be shit without him)

David Goyer (Batman Begins! Ghost Rider! Blade! The Crow: City of Angels! Nick Fury! Kick Boxer II!)

Peter Hyams (2010, Time Cop!)

Oh my. Actually, Goyer brought Hyams on. He wasn't doing anything and was free to direct the second half of the pilot. I shit you not.

The writing is so horrible. Awful, awful stuff.

"I need a gun because my father has been missing for years."

"I will read first Corinthians on my PDA because I'm in a helicopter over the ocean."

"What are you doing because I am not a Christian."

"I am afraid because I like to drink."

"I am in love with you for no reason except I can't tell you who I am but I will give you hints so we can be in love but my past is dark."

"I'm Charles Dutton and I made some bad real estate deals."

"I need a new computer because I am a former 60s radical."

"Made up science, made up science, made up science, my father gave me a watch because it is meaningful."

"I brought a dog to the office because I don't have a husband."

"I label my dinner because I don't have a husband."

"I haven't unpacked these boxes because I don't have a husband."

"I am staying up late to save the world because I don't have a husband."

"It is sad that you don't have a husband because you are the woman on the show."

The tv-iness of the whole thing is amazing. It looks so much like a tv show. The way A-Team or Airwolf or Who's the Boss look like tv shows. Some of the special effects are rather nice. But the framing and cutting are so ugly. It's like watching someone who doesn't understand the visual appeal of modern television or film trying to shoot footage. Lost was on the air and the impetous for CBS buying the pilot. The Office was on the air. Battlestar Galactica was on. Desparate Houswives. Arrested Develpoment. Joss Whedon's shows. Any of them could've pointed the way toward a more cinematic vision. Instead, we get a visual language crafted by some guys who made films look like tv shows. Instead of the X-Files, we get Street Hawk.

I listened to some of the commentary with Braga and Goyer. At first, I was amazed at how clueless these two were. Then I was sad. Then my brain started squirting out of my ears.

On it, we learn that the studio was impressed by how much the show looked like a feature film! Goyer and Braga are also impressed by this. Goyer and Braga are blind.

They cut a lot of pointless character exposition because they realized there was too much character exposition after they filmed it. Still, half of each episode is pointless character exposition after they started cutting out pointless character exposition. Goyer and Braga are dumb.

They are so thrilled to have a female protagonist! She is always in danger and saved by Muscles McBaddactor.

They're amazed that women like Peter Dinklage because he is so short! And they are proud that in every scene he is in they don't mention that he is short! They think it's funny that a character so short could be written as a womanizer. It is brilliant that he does in-character acting without the dialog that explains what he is doing!
He is truly talented.

Brent Spiner didn't want to do the show, so they worked on his character for weeks to make him a former 60s radical who is mildly uncomfortable working for the government.

After the pilot, I watched two more episodes. One was set at an insane asylum where, get this, the crazy dude wasn't really crazy! Then, they did an episode set at a military accademy, where they did a story about indoctrination and mind control. Who knows where future episodes might have gone? A hospital? A police station? Death row? An airplane? A small town where all is not what it appears? The sky was the limit!

Sadly, I probably won't watch the remaining discs from the first season. It's sad, really. I'd like to watch them, but I'd have to add them back onto my netflix queue and that just isn't happening. And the show was cancelled before everyone else stopped watching it, so no more will be made.

Maybe Goyer and Braga can give us some last words to remember their art by.

Actual lines from the commentary:

"This is something Hitchcock and M — M. Knight do."

"Who knows why some shows are more successful than others?"


Blogger Marcos Perez said...

man, longest threshold post EVER.

give this guy some work!

9:43 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Wait till you see the salvia one!

I will destroy you all with an avalanche of words!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Belasco said...

I can't beleive you watched the whole thing.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

I substitute with Hill Street Blues first season!

6:45 PM  

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