Friday, October 07, 2005

Night Stinker

To: Frank Spotnitz, producer

Mr. Spotnitz:

Saw the second episode of your Night Stalker revival show... I missed the pilot, but did want to at least sample the show. I hate to add to the reams of mail you've gotten denouncing the show - but after seeing "The Five People You Meet In Hell", I have no other choice.

First of all - if you want to make an "X-Files" of your own, why didn't you just pay Chris Carter a fee and come up with a differently titled show? What I saw wasn't even in the spirit of "Night Stalker" - it was literally cobbled together from X-FILES leavings, from concept to scripted lines. If a blind person were listening to the show, they'd think they'd stumbled onto a syndicated rerun. For all the hype this past summer about 'reimaging' NIGHT STALKER, I would have hoped for something better than a show that blatantly uses concepts and character motivations from X-FILES, combined with the dark sensibility of MILLENNIUM, only to emerge as something much lesser than all those shows combined.

The maddening thing is, there appears to be a lot of talent involved (the sight of Darin Morgan's name as a Consulting Producer was welcome), and a lot of effort put into the show.... but the damn thing is BORING. There's no reason to care about these characters - at least no good reason given. And there's no good reason for this show being called NIGHT STALKER other than trying to grab an audience due to name recognition. Perhaps if it had been developed as something to stand on its own feet instead of being propped up by name branding and outright "homaging" of another show.

The one good thing to come of it is that it allowed the release of the original series with Darren McGavin onto DVD format, for the fans of the original series to enjoy and for newer audiences to discover.

I hope that the show lasts long enough to develop its own voice - hopefully one of Darin Morgan's scripts will be brillant enough to cut through the dross of this NIGHT STINKER. Maybe by then, I'll be interested in watching the show on a regular basis. But somehow, I doubt that day will come.

ADDENDUM - 10/10/05

I actually got a response to this as follows:

thank you for your letter i will certainly pass this along to mr. spotnitz. it's such a shame that judgement has been passed based on one episode. sad really. luckily we have been blessed with thousands of letters of support from people who love the show. maybe you'll change your mind at some later point. thanks again for writing.

night stalker staff

Kinda snarky, but only fair, since my mail was kinda snarky also - at least they're polite. And they are answering mail.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Quite a busy weekend - did make it in to see The Billy Nayer Show and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum despite the downpour. Discovered the next morning that water came down the chimney and overflowed into the basement, effectively destroying two rugs... but they were ratty anyway, so no big loss there.

I celebrated my birthday last week - Jason Pankoke (editor of Micro-Film Magazine, whose latest issue is now available) sent me a card which was one of the best cards I'd ever received. I was even more impressed when the card turned up on local news broadcasts and newpaper opinion columns over the weekend, due to the Mayor and other City bigwigs whining about it.

If city fathers can't see the humor in this, then it's no wonder that it's so difficult trying to attract wealthy, hip business to the city and state - besides the "Evolution is Evil" school debates and the whole hating fags thing, that is.

The New Television Season is upon us, and this year marks the return of Genre television to the Networks... Being a fan of genre tv, I should be pleased that there's a lot more out there than the usual tired STAR TREK spin-off. However, I detect more than a slight whiff of deja vu off of most of the shows.

SURFACE is such a blatant homage to the works of Steven Spielberg (specifically CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, but there's bits more than reminiscent of JAWS and E.T. on occasion), I half expect to see Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon strolling across the screen on their way to Devil's tower instead of Lake Bell and... is it Jay Ferguson? ... hanging around the water's edge to find out what this new aquatic species is, that the Government is attempting to keep secret. It's entertaining so far, but if I start to hallucinate Robert Shaw during a broadcast, it's over.

INVASION and THRESHOLD are about alien invasions, INVASION taking it's own sweet time in setting things up in which aliens may have invaded the Florida coast after a hurricane, examining the effects on a small town. INVASION looks great, but it's missing some words in the the title... like "Of The Body Snatchers". I hope there may be some cross-over with COMMANDER IN CHIEF and Donald Sutherland does a guest shot later in the series - they've already tipped their hand with having Veronica Cartwright guest.

THRESHOLD is the name of the Government team and plan to deal with alien encounters. Although exactly what the aliens are up to is sort of hard to figure out - something to do with aliens from possibly another dimension who are mutating humans by means of a signal... I don't know. I'm not entirely sure the writers do either, although the cast (Carla Guigno, Brett Spiner, Charles S. Dutton and Peter Dinklage) try to fake it as best they can.

Both shows.... ehh. No reason to hate them, but it's not love at first sight either.

That leaves LOST, which kicked off strong this season by starting to answer some questions - which, of course, leads to even more questions. After seeing the third episode, I'm convinced that there is indeed some long term plan in place...

Think of LOST as the television equivalent of a graphic novel, and then the format begins to make a lot more sense - the flashbacks that help to explain some facet of the characters, the different p.o.v.'s of the same event, and the little hidden details that are keeping the forum boards busy and dvd sets bought and/or rented. That, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and FARGATE are the highlights so far, but the latter two won't have new episodes until January.

And yes, it's FARGATE - amazing what getting rid of McGuyver (who's been coasting for years and insufferable to the nth degree) and adding 2/5ths of the FARSCAPE cast will accomplish. The show is actually interesting to watch this year.

I've purposely left out NIGHT STINKER - I missed the pilot last week, but I didn't lose much sleep over it. I can't responsibly comment until I actually see and episode or two, but I do have two things to say:

1) If you just want to do another X-FILES, then dammit, make a deal with Chris Carter. I grew up on THE NIGHT STALKER and Carl Kolchak - and this ain't it.

2) The original KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER just came out on DVD this week and the tv movies THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER have been available for some time. Do yourself a favor and rent or buy these instead of NIGHT STINKER.

Jonathan Carroll's new novel GLASS SOUP is out - it's a follow-up to his last work WHITE APPLES.

Lastly, I want to mention Lawrence, KS based writer/director Kevin Wilmott whose movie CSA - THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA opens in Memphis, Tennessee at the Ridgeway Theatre and the Downtown Mall Charlottesville, Virginia on October 7th.
IFC Films is opening the film in the South and will spread to more theaters in other parts of the country over the next few months.

The film has already taken a lot of heat due to the subject matter and due to Spike Lee's name as Executive Producer (Spike had nothing to do with the production of the film, although some don't seem to register that).

If it opens near you, go make up your own mind; take friends and family with you, and be ready for some discussion afterwards.

By the way, the Lincoln in this clip from a "D.W. Griffith film" (actually a pretty clever pastiche) is actually KS. filmmaker Kevin McKinney. He makes a great Lincoln-in-blackface.

I was going to start posting some Halloween picks here - maybe in a couple of days. I need to start watching some appropriate films. Expect, in a few weeks, something on two underrated television series that ended much too soon: MILLENNIUM and MIRACLES.