Michelle Erica Green re-introduces her weekly TV column FREQUENCIES by examiningXENA, WITCHBLADE, the new television lineup, and those zany Saturn Awards.
XENAmay be coming to a close, but the action heroine-led WITCHBLADE continues to attract its audienceeven XENA fan page Whoosh! has created an episode guide for the hot new series. Last year's premiere of the TNT live-action television movie earned a strong 4.5 rating, drawing 3.1 million households to make it the top movie of the week in the desirable 18-49 year old age group.
Film Zone called it one of the best comic adaptation television movies in recent memory. Comics2Film praised its serious-minded approach to the Top Cow comic storyline, while Zealot's reviewer only hoped the comic was as good as the TV adaptation.
While it's still too soon to predict how the weekly series will fare, early reviews have been favorable and many long-time comic fans seem satisfied with the adaptation...even if the main character does wear considerably more clothing onscreen than in print.[IMG2R]
This week, Detective Sara Pezzini (Yancy Butler) tries to protect up-and-coming fashion model Karen Bronte (Malin Ackerman), who may very well be a blood heir to the Witchblade (as if life isn't complicated enough when you're 19). In upcoming weeks, Sara will investigate an artist who turns out to be one of numerous identical brothers connected to the myth of the Witchblade, and The Who's Roger Daltrey will guest-star as a Catholic priest whose ghost reveals a connection between the Witchblade, the Church and the Nazis.
THIS WEEK'S PICK
Whether you're a long-time fan of the series or someone who just likes Lucy Lawless in leather, the series finale of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is a must-see for genre aficionados. The syndicated show airs at different times all over the country -- some stations have chosen to run the two hour-long parts of "A Friend in Need" back-to-back, while others have already aired Part One and will show Part Two sometime between now and the last weekend in June.
In these final episodes, Xena travels to Japan with Gabrielle to make amends for a past error in judgment that resulted in the deaths of 40,000 people. The souls of her victims have been enslaved by the evil Samurai ghost Yodoshi, so Xena must trade her chakram for a katana and risk death at the hands of three armies in order to free them.
Lucy Lawless told Entertainment Tonight that Xena goes up against a thousand Samurai warriors, and that regardless of Xena's fate, the friendship between Xena and Gabrielle would endure. Meanwhile, Renee O' Connor told Upbeat Magazine that she expected the series finale to resolve the issue of Xena and Gabrielle's sexuality. So in addition to the largest battles ever shot on the series, "A Friend In Need" Parts One and Two may feature the most poignant love scenes. No matter how it ends, XENA will be remembered for inspiring hundreds of action heroines, both onscreen and off.
WHAT'S ON THE TUBE
While most major network series are in hiatus until the fall, the 9 p.m. Friday night slot remains a hot one for genre fans. On this particular Friday, Sci-Fi's FARSCAPE offers an episode written by series star Ben Browder, while Fox airs one of its lost episodes of FREAKYLINKS. INVISIBLE MAN episodes and LONE GUNMEN reruns occupy the previous hour, but when Fox moves DARK ANGEL to the 8 p.m. slot, Fridays will become wonderfully complicated for genre fans deciding what to watch and what to videotape.
On Monday at 9 pm, the WB offers an ANGEL rerun in what will be its new fall time slot. "The Thin Dead Line" finds Angel secretly investigating a squad of zombie police officers behind the backs of his associates.
If you're in the mood for aliens rather than zombies, Sci-Fi airs SPECIES II at 9 with sexy Natasha Henstridge as Sil's clone.
Fans trying to catch up with BOSTON PUBLIC in anticipation of former VOYAGER star Jeri Ryan s fall arrival will note that Fox has scheduled reruns for both Monday and Tuesday of this weekthe former at 8, the latter at 9. This begs the question: where is Fox's excellent DARK ANGEL, which is missing from this week's rerun schedule?
Also on Tuesday, UPN has scheduled back to back episodes of the soon-to-vanish SEVEN DAYS. On Wednesday, the network will show back-to-back VOYAGER reruns, "Inside Man" and "Prophecy" featuring popular aliens from previous STAR TREK shows -- the Ferengi and the Klingons respectively. Wednesday at 9 also showcases "Crush," the hugely popular episode of the WB s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in which Spike s obsession with the Slayer gets him ridiculed. BUFFY will probably beat VOYAGER in the ratings, but UPN won't mind: as everyone has heard by now, the vampire slayer will move to the rival network on Tuesday nights this fall.
Sci-Fi reruns Stephen King's THE SHINING miniseries on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in long blocks starting at 9 p.m. "Death Takes a Halliwell," Thursday night's CHARMED rerun at 9 on the WB, sounds like a preview of things to come now that Shannen Doherty has left the series. In this episode, Prue sees the Angel of Death who warns that he will return. On Friday at 9, FREAKYLINKS offers "The Final Word," in which the gang is trailed by a news magazine as they investigate a convicted teen murderer's claim of supernatural involvement in his alleged crime.
Meanwhile on FARSCAPE, Talyn is swallowed whole in the Ben Browder-written Green-Eyed Monster. Sunday's X-FILES rerun on Fox, "Without," recaps the events of the multi-part eighth season opening arc. Last week the show got its worst ratings in its entire history up against the NBA playoffs, so the off-season ratings have nowhere to go but up.
Is SEX AND THE CITY eating into the Files' audience? We may not know for sure until we get Mulder-less episodes in the fall. This week, fans of the supernatural will have to choose between X-FILES and Sci-Fi's broadcast of ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION.
IN THE NEWS
The Saturn Awards were announced this week, but the biggest story is who didn't win. In the Best Actress category, for instance, Jessica Alba took top honors for her performance on DARK ANGEL. Now, DARK ANGEL is a terrific show that got off to an exceptional start; faced with marketing more interested in her pouty lips and breasts than her acting talents, it's wonderful that Alba got recognized for her performances at all. [IMG3R] But for her to beat BUFFY's Sarah Michelle Gellar and FARSCAPE's Claudia Black is ridiculous. Gellar, who has always done top-notch work on BUFFY, had an absolutely stunning season this year, dealing with a sister from another dimension and the death of her mother. Black's Aeryn Sun suffers from the show writers' fear of allowing her and Crichton to develop a profound romantic attachment (which results in her wrangling of onscreen emotions), but she still shows more range than Alba.
I won't even make the case for Kate Mulgrew, who has won the award before (in a year when VOYAGER had stronger scripts) though her performance in the series finale might be worthy of an Emmy, not just a Saturn. I will simply note my suspicion that the Saturn Awards are fixed, and if I had any doubts, I need only note that Tea Leoni won best actress in a genre film for FAMILY MAN to confirm my theory. Moreover, Robert Patrick won best actor on a television series, which is ludicrous -- not because Patrick isn't doing his damndest to breathe life into Agent Doggett on THE X-FILES, but because the show's writers aren't giving him enough depth to breathe into. At least BUFFY's Spike, James Marsters, deservedly took home supporting actor accolades.
Another Saturn winner, VOYAGER's Jeri Ryan, had been sought by Paramount to make a cameo appearance in the upcoming tenth STAR TREK film. But Ryan is very busy preparing for BOSTON PUBLIC (and supposedly getting married, though no one has been willing to confirm that rumor on the record!). So the producers have apparently decided to substitute Mulgrew, whom they want to reprise her role as Captain Janeway. One of TrekToday s sources suggests that Mulgrew will have a more substantial role than the brief appearance originally planned for Ryan, but it's not clear yet whether Mulgrew has committed to appearing in the film. Mulgrew's husband, Tim Hagan, mentioned at a recent convention in his home town of Cleveland that he was running for governor of Ohio, which could mean Kate will be as busy as Jeri by the time TREK X gets underway come summer's end.
Meanwhile, DEEP SPACE NINE fans are incensed that there doesn't seem to be plans for any appearances by actors from the oft-overlooked middle TREK series. Armin Shimerman (Quark) had filmed a scene for INSURRECTION that ended up on the cutting room floor, and Sisko was even left out of the list of captains during the first STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE promos, though UPN changed the ad after fans complained. Some DS9 fans are trying to start a write-in campaign to get a character from that series into the movie. Personally, I'd rather lobby for a substantial DS9 subplot in the next movie, or even a DS9 movie.
Speaking of ENTERPRISE, for which shooting is now underway, Seven of Nine fans will be glad to know that at the Star Trek & Sci-Fi Media Convention in Durham, NC last week, reports surfaced that Jolene Blalock's outfit will be even more revealing than Jeri Ryan's on VOYAGER. The Vulcan second-in-command, T Pol, will be in a catsuit so tight that Blalock must have someone unzip the back after each scene so she can have a moment to breathe. Original series fans who feared the absence of Uhura-style miniskirts, take heart!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I don't want to be a Bond girl. I would want to be Bond. Who wants to be Alotta Fagina when you can be Xena? "
-- Lucy Lawless on ET, June 11.