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Getting INSIDE With Tim Minear
By Jason Davis
April 03, 2006
Jay Harrington, Rachel Nichols, Nelsan Ellis, Adam Baldwin, Katie Finneran and Peter Coyote on THE INSIDE.
On January 4, 1998, Fox aired an episode of THE X-FILES
titled "Kitsunegari." Besides the fact that the episode was a sequel to season three's "Pusher," I noticed one other thing at the time. The episode was co-written by a guy named Tim Minear. As a student of television writing, I make it a point to remember names and this one stuck in my head despite being attached to only one more X-FILES
episode later that season.
In the fall of 1999, Tim Minear was writing for ANGEL
. The name clicked over in my head and I went about my business until the season two episode "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" blew my socks off the next year. Minear followed that mélange of vampirism and McCarthyism with a string of episodes that had me convinced that ANGEL
would make people forget there had ever been a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
By the fall of 2002, with 17 ANGEL
episodes under his belt (not to mention six as director following the apparent Mutant Enemy motto of "just writing and producing is for sissies"), Tim left LA for deep space to play first mate to Joss Whedon on FIREFLY
. Alas, we all know how long that lasted...at least, there were DVDs. Sometimes, Fox sucks.
Luckily for people with a taste for quality TV, Tim rebounded the next year. WONDERFALLS
, co-created by Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland, was a phenomenal pilot about a girl bullied into doing good deeds by talking knickknacks. When Tim became the showrunner for the series, phenomenal was upgraded to extraordinary in my book and I tuned into the first airing with a giddiness equivalent to that of a DOCTOR WHO
fan who gets cast as the Doctor (that Tennant's a lucky bastard). When the credits rolled, I was certain of two things: a) WONDERFALLS
was the best show on TV and b) WONDERFALLS
would be cancelled after the third episode. As it happens, it was cancelled after the fourth...at least, there were DVDs. Oftentimes, Fox really sucks.
When I heard that Tim was re-tooling a show called THE INSIDE
as a 2005 mid-season replacement, I got the same sick kind of feeling I now associate with any beloved TV creator's new projects. When I heard the show called "SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
The Series," I started thinking it might have a chanceafter all, that film took home Oscars for every major category and made Hannibal Lecter a household name. When January hit and THE INSIDE
was nowhere to be seen, I got understandably worried. Then, like a light at the end of the tunnel, it premiered on June 8 and I settled in to watch. Apparently, I watched alone. At least it almost doubled the number of airings WONDERFALLS
had notched up...and, of course, there would be DVDs. On this occasion, my friends, Fox sucked like nobody's business.
Tim had mentioned his hope of putting THE INSIDE
out in tandem with another short-lived Fox series, STRANGE WORLD
(on which Tim had worked with INSIDE
co-creator and 24
veteran Howard Gordon). Fox, evidently, said no. Fragments of various articles hinted at what was to come in unaired episodes of THE INSIDE
and I winced every time some tantalizing tidbit suggested a story that sounded like something I'd never seen the like of on TV. When I interviewed Tim for Creative Screenwriting
magazine (the Mar/Apr issue on sale nowforgive the advert), he told me about an episode called "Aidan" and I positively wept at not being able to view a show with such a great hook...
I've gotten ahead of myself. Unless you were one of the few who saw the imaginary commercials Fox aired, or happened to read my reviews of darn-near every aired episode on this very site, you probably have no idea why this show was so special. Forgive my enthusiasm. I shall now backtrack for your benefit (anyone who watched and loved the show can skip forward to the three stars below). THE INSIDE
followed the exploits of a Los Angeles-based FBI team led by the enigmatic Virgil "Web" Webster (Peter Coyote). His team comprised of the empathic (not literally...wrong kind of show) Paul Ryan (Jay Harrington), the gossipy Melody Sim (WONDERFALLS
' Katie Finneran), tech-god Carter Howard (Nelsan Ellis), and trigger-happy Danny Love (FIREFLY
's Adam Baldwin) is joined in the pilot by newly minted Special Agent Rebecca Locke (ALIAS
' Rachel Nichols). "So what?" you say? Sounds like any other procedural where the coppers nail the twisted perp? Yes...and no.
Rebecca Locke is rather an unusual FBI agent. You see, as a child, she was kidnapped and held prisoner for several months by a man who was never caught. Rebecca escaped through unknown means and eventually found her way to the authorities, but smoke inhalation was not the only scar left over after her long ordeal. As it happens, Web has pulled strings to get her through the battery of psychological tests that would have undoubtedly prevented her from hunting men like the one who kidnapped her. See, that's Virgil Webster's thinghe likes to use people's personal tragedies to catch the bad guys and Rebecca's just one more pawn on his board.
So, yes the show is essentially Fox's stab at the CSI
style procedural, but Tim Minear made a critical bait and switch that leaves the stories centering on the ongoing characters and their demons rather than focusing on the crime of the week. Of course, any character-based show is going to have a story arc and THE INSIDE
was no different. Things were building, tensions between Web and Paul Ryan over the former's manipulation of Rebecca, inklings that Locke's kidnapper was still out there somewhere, and the final episode to air even suggested that one of the team might be a serial killer at heart. Sounds cool, yeah? So what went wrong? Well, it premiered on June 8 for one thing and I never saw a commercial advertising the show. No one I told about it had ever heard of it. I think I'm one of the few people who reviewed it.
In an interview I read, Tim said "It's not my job to bring the audience, it's my job to keep the audience and build the audience." I think we can safely say that the network didn't bring the audience. In fact, the network quickly decided to pre-empt the show in favor of more reality programming (as an ironic aside, the aforementioned reality series, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE
, was described by Fox programming folks as the cavalry coming to bolster THE INSIDE
with a strong lead-in. Instead, the cavalry arrived and promptly trampled what it was meant to be saving). I think we all know the mantra by nowsay it with me: "Fox..."***
So, getting back to "Aidan," the episode starts with a pregnant woman leaving a yoga class. As she walks to her car, she's intercepted by someone we can't see and the scene flashes forward in time to ambulances screaming up to the yoga center. The EMTs are working on the woman, but there's no hope. Thinking they might save the baby, the EMTs deliver a plastic doll, which then says "Mama." Sick? Sure. Twisted? Definitely. Deranged? Certainly. Unlike anything else on TV? You bet. As it happens, one of the agents has just lost a baby due to miscarriage and I'm sure you know who Web will put front and center on the case. That was the genius of the seriesit took these disturbing crimes and used them as a mirror to reflect the souls of the agents investigating them. Each episode seemed to be darker than the previous one and the audience was thrown into this netherworld alongside Rebecca Locke and had to hope she could find her way out of the darkness and back to the light.
Seven episodes aired. Six did not. I've seen all 13 and I have to say that I think the show had a shot at becoming one of my all-time favorite series had it survived its network. I won't say its' without fault. The second aired episode pissed me off no end. I'd spent the entire week telling everyone I knew to watch the show and then the weakest story of the bunch aired second (it was originally intended to air third) and I bloody well wept because I knew that it would probably be the one everybody sampled. Why am I telling you guys all this? Honestly, it's because I want people to bug Fox about it. There are six brilliant pieces of TV sitting in a cupboard some place where no one will ever see them. BUFFY
's Amber Benson is in one. LOST
's William Mapother plays an absolutely unforgettable character in another. "Gem" will break your heart and "Point of Origin" will have you desperate for season two. I realize it's expensive for Fox to do a DVD release, but that's no longer the only option. The whole series could go out through I-Tunes. I know I'd cough up the cash in support of the release. So, if I've managed to intrigue you just a little, jot off a quick note to Fox Home Video and mention that you'd like to see THE INSIDE
any way they feel like releasing it. You won't be sorryit was a good show.
Next week, the columnist does penance for his trashing of STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT
. As many have written in to say, it was without question the best NEXT GENERATION
movie ever made. I had a lovely simile to employ here, but I think I've drawn enough fire for a matter that's technically beyond the purview of a television column. Next week, we'll talk about...something else, I expect.MONDAY, APRIL 324
(8 PM PST, Fox) "Day 5: 10:00PM 11:00PM" Wouldn't it be weird if they skipped an hour one season? They air "9:00PM 10:00PM" and follow it up with "11:00PM-12:00AM"that would seriously mess with people's heads...TUESDAY, APRIL 4SCRUBS
(9 PM PST, NBC) "My Chopped Liver" J.D. gets in the way of Turk's "Turk Time." Very scary indeed.VERONICA MARS
(9 PM PST, UPN) "I Am God" Bit of a bold title that one. I see UPN's getting ready to go all CW by moving Ms. Mars up alongside THE GILMORE GIRLS
--a fantastic pairing if you ask me.WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5LOST
(9 PM PST, ABC) "Dave" After last week's revelation, can we assume the title is the real name of our new friend from the Other side of the island? It looks to be a Hurley episode so it should be fun whatever the title suggests. SOUTH PARK
(10 PM PST, Comedy Central) Not intended for the faint of heart or the slight of offense. THURSDAY, APRIL 6SMALLVILLE
(8 PM PST, WB) "Void" Lana visits a doctor who uses Kryptonite to reunite people with their dead loved ones...yeah, that sounds like a safe treatment.MY NAME IS EARL
(9:00 PM PST, NBC) "The Bounty Hunter" Earl's ex returns for revenge. SUPERNATURAL
(9 PM PST, WB) "Something Wicked" ...this way comes. Now they're using titles from Bradbury and
Matheson! If next week's episode is titled "The Stand" I'm gonna be annoyed. FRIDAY, APRIL 7GHOST WHISPERER
(8 PM PST, CBS) "The Vanishing" An accident endangers Melinda's powers.DOCTOR WHO
(9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "World War Three" Can the Doctor stop the Slitheen's evil plan? Tune in and find out. Me, I'm eagerly awaiting next week's episode...NUM3ERS
(10 PM PST, CBS) "Dark Matter" A school shooting attracts Don and his team.SATURDAY, APRIL 8HU$TLE
(10 PM PST, AMC) "Episode 12" Last week was just a drill, this should mark the final episode of HUSTLE
second season. SUNDAY, APRIL 9THE WEST WING
(8 PM PST, NBC) "Election Day Part 2" Presumably, we have a President-elect...or is Florida going to need a re-count?THE SOPRANOS
(9 PM PST, HBO) "Mr. And Mrs. Sacramoni Request" A mob wedding! A mob wedding! FBI guys will be walking the car park!BIG LOVE
(10 PM PST, HBO) "Affair" Nikki suspects that Bill is having an affair...'cause sometimes three wives just doesn't cut it...HUFF
(10 PM PST, Showtime) "Maps Don't Talk Part 2" Huff located his rogue schizophrenic brother...in Mexico! This should be fun.