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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pre-Air-Extravaganza: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

If you've been around the internet for - oh, anything longer than a week, you know where it's meat lies: between the two halves of bun-y goodness that are the groupings of letters "il" and "legal." The moral relativist has remained largely uncontested in the domain of the internet, with YouTube videos of trailers and even whole movies appearing minutes after their premiere, new pop-music albums being swapped bit-by-stinking-bit before they're even announced, and popular books having their endings and major revelations blown at least a week before the street date.

TV has, of course, not been immune to these stalwart nihilists. A little-known (*stifled laughter*) program called BitTorrent has allowed every television show imaginable to be viewed all over the world, immediately following the first broadcast, and sometimes even preceding it. It's those pre-air leaks that we look at now, in the first installment of "Pre-Air-Extravaganza," The Sarah Connor Chronicles.


I'm not certain how they happen to reach the internet's series of tubes: my best guess is that the first episode of a season or series is sent to critics or affiliates for review, sort of like advance copies of books. However they get down our chimneys, though, is besides the point, that point being that I have seen the first episode of the Terminator-inspired Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I have felt compelled to offer my unsolicited opinion of it to yous. Let's jump into it!

The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the semi-official sequel to Terminator 2, allowing the fans that absolutely hated Terminator 3 to forget that it ever existed. I say "semi-official" because TV-series based on theatrical movies always seem to exist on the periphery of official canon. the big example, and the only one I can mention with absolute confidence, Stargate SG-1 has "ret-conned" dozens of aspects of it's progenitor, Roland Emmerich's Stargate. It's just something that needs to be done in order to turn something that was intended to last for only 2 hours into something that's long-term. Of course, the big "ret-con" here would be the date of Judgement Day, but I'll wait until I get into the review before I get into that can of cybernetic worms.

WARNING! Thar be SPOILERS past this point!

The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes place two years after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The eponymous Sarah Connor has been on the run from the police after the events of that film, events which are courteously summed up for us by federal agent Ellison just after Sarah leaves her new husband. But then, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The episode opens with a dream by Sarah, in which she pulls her son John Connor (future saviour of humanity) out of school, only to be arrested by waiting police officers. As they sit trapped in the really-not-safe-at-all police cruisers, a lone man wearing sunglasses - the hallmark of all murderous cybernetic soldiers from the future - approaches the police and opens fire. Sarah and John attempt their escape, John is gunned down, and "Judgement Day," in which mankind is almost entirely wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, is immediately triggered, resulting in a spectacular display of special effects that is astonishing for television. Let me say this about the episode: the effects are never cheesy or fake-looking, including the exposed robotic components on the Terminators that Sarah and John encounter.

When Sarah awakes, she gets John and tells him that they're leaving everything behind, based solely on her nightmare-induced fears. Sarah's engaged to be married, but her soon-to-be husband only exists at this point to introduce us to non-cybernetic antagonist #1: James Ellison, up-tight FBI agent who's seemingly obsessed with finding Sarah Connor. Jimmy possesses all the wit and humor of a rectal exam involving a cactus.

Sarah and John settle in a New Mexico "hick town," where we're introduced to Terminator #2: Cameron (the name is more than likely a nod to original film creator, James Cameron), a convincingly-emotional robot of the Arnold variety: sent back in time to protect the saviour of humanity, she takes a more stealthy approach to the job than Arnold, posing as one of John's classmates. This all leads into an encounter with Terminator #1, the evil one, who decides that the best way to kill John is to kill John's science teacher, replace him, and then rip open his own leg and shove a gun into it - if you'll remember from you Infiltration 101 textbooks, revealing components of your robotic nature is considered the epitome of inconspicuous behaviour. Terminator #1 attempts to shoot John, John is made wise to Cameron's metallic inner-child, and we're allowed to witness a moment of pure geek joy as Cameron shouts a line that every man, woman, and child should be familiar with:

"Come with me if you want to live."

Terminator #1 captures Sarah as she's staking out John's school and whips out the "voice changer" trick (care of the T-1000's toolbox) to lure John to their temporary New Mexico house. Girl-inator pulls a fast one on him, though, and she uses the same voice-trick to take a few bullets and kick some ass. The battling robots tear Sarah's house apart (and she just got finished painting, too), and Terminator #1 is electrocuted long enough to allow the trio to escape once more.

After a short trip to Miles Dyson's house to accost his widow, Sarah and the gang head to the bank to make a withdrawal: an anti-terminator gun is stored there, as well as a time machine! And before you can click your hills together, Dorothy, the Terminator is dead and the trio are naked in 2007 - the convenient new date for the beginning of the apocalypse.

There's the usual characterisation here: John just wants to be normal, and doesn't want to have to live up to his responsibilities as "saviour of humanity." Sarah is the tough/almost certainly insane military-like figure who's only goal is to survive. Hopefully we'll see something with more depth over the rest of the season.

Cameron isn't a very compelling Terminator. Like T'Pol of the infamous Star Trek: Enterprise, she's a little too emotional to make for a convincing robot. Depressingly, also like Enterprise, the producers decided to try to make up for this by giving us a liberal amount of almost-naked female-induced titillation, which is never a good sign for a sci-fi series' success, let alone when it's presented in the first episode. Cameron's character also seems to be simply a plot device here: she gives Sarah and John a way to stop the Terminator and, perhaps, CyberDyne (the company responsible for SkyNet, the precursor to the machine uprising that spawns the Terminators). Things do not bode well for her - er, it.

Also of note is Terminator #1's (okay, okay - his name Cromartie) odd little habit of cocking his head to the side like a confused/curious Golden Retriever.

I'm willing to give Sarah Connor Chronicles a chance. After all, last year I pegged Heroes to die quickly because it had so many characters - so many that I thought they wouldn't be able to give all of them adequate development. Then they went and added even more characters, and boy, was I wrong.

But, I still have this nagging itch in the back of my mind - there really isn't anything I really liked here. No, I wasn't bored to tears, and yes, I was kept interested. But the aforementioned Heroes had me, from the first episode, citing Hiro as my favorite character. And I mean my favorite character on TV ever. Sarah Connor Chronicles? Nothing, really. There's no humorous character to endear to. There's no smart-ass. There's no one to channel my hate towards. There could be more emphasis on Sarah's total fear of losing her son - if every time John Connor was not on screen or out of the sight of Sarah, S.C.C. made me feel what Pet Sematary (the novel, not the movie) did when I knew that truck was coming (for the slow kids in the back, that would be absolute fear, despair and crushing anxiety), I'd love this show. Heroes scored in that sense as well, by creating Sylar, a despicable character that you both hated and feared.

Sarah Connor Chronicles just feels like... vanilla ice-cream. It's inoffensive. It's practically neutral. It's nothing memorable.

Watch Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX, Sundays at 9PM, starting sometime in 2008. Or don't. I really don't care either way.

Favorites Lines:

(Sarah's holding the anti-Terminator gun given to her by Cameron)
Sarah: "Is this nuclear?"
Cameron: "No, not really."

Tomorrow I'll render my opinion on the science-fiction-drama Chuck, starring... no one I've even heard of. Fantastic. I don't have high hopes for Chuck, but I'll give it a try anyhow! See you tomorrow.

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At 27/7/07 9:59 PM , Blogger Hotlips McGrew said...

and i like ur blog.we're(me and the fam) are updating our blog to include comics and sci-fi keep up the good work.


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