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March 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 13 Mar 1995 13:46:00 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I'm afraid I'll sound like I'm typing out of both sides of my keyboard, having
endorsed the call for more international discussion and now requesting
discourse on an American TV product, but so it goes.  I'm curious if anyone
caught the opening show of the VR5, the new Fox SF show.  My apologies to
international correspondents who may not have access yet.
The show, I noticed, is produced by John Sacret Young, "auteur" of
CHINA BEACH, and it seems to have some of the wit and high production
values I associated with that show, interesting in a non-Big 3 network
production.  As you may know, the premise is that a young woman electronics/
computer person has managed to switch modems on her virtual reality
program and thus get sucked into it, connecting with others that her
modem connects to.  (I
'm afraid I'm not explaining this too well, but it's all pseudo-science
anyway.)   This kind of thing has been explored or exploited in a number
of films and tv shows before, from TRON to VR RANGERS, but this show is
distinguished by its sly corss-referencing of other films and tv shows and
its wit.  For example, the woman's obnoxious neighbor is played by obnoxious
gonzo magician Penn Jillette.  Her mother, who can be accessed by her
program, but who otherwise exists in a vegetative (Alzheimers?  lobotomy?)
state is ex-Big Nurse Louise Fletcher.  This VR heroine seeks advice from
a researcher whose work is closer to present-day Virtual Reality than hers--
he is played by CHINA BEACH vet Robert Picardo, who currently also plays
the Holographic Doctor on STAR TREK: VOYAGER.  And so on.
The most mysterious character is another VR researcher who turns out to be
linked to something called the Committee, which may or may not have had
something to do with the deaths of the heroine's father and sister 17 years
earlier.  This researcher is first described as being a "really old guy" and
when she enters his office, she glimpses a white-haired man behind a curtain,
but "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" because he's really
just a therapist and the "old guy" is really a young-middle-aged man.
But his character's name is "Frank Morgan," the name, you'll recall, of the
actor who played the Wizard of Oz.  There's also a remarkable Steadicam
tracking shot of the two walking through a seemingly endless corridor of
file cabinets, reminscent of two scenes in Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL.
Maybe I'm over-reading this show, but I'll be very curious to see how it
develops.  It's on (locally at least) just before THE X-FILES and looks
like a better show to my virtual eyes.
Other reactions?
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN