Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Eulogy to UPN

Where have you been, I imagine you're asking--UPNs been gone for several months, maybe more. Well, I've been busy, okay? And, better late than never--or so my Ma' always told me. Usually as she was giving me a late birthday present, which really was better late than never.

My girl and I have, over the past year or so, discovered television on DVDs--our local library has the world's largest collection of DVDs in general, and television programs in particular. We have watched The Shield, Deadwood, Wings, The Twilight Zone, The Rockford Files, Dawson's Creek, Veronica Mars, and a load of other old and new television series's. It's amazing just how much better they are without commercials--I actually like television again. Whew--I never thought I'd say that!

All this viewing has made me think of a few classic UPN programs: 1) Nowhere Man; 2) The Sentinel. In UPN's early days they made a few pretty damn good programs. Unfortunately they decided urban comedy was their future--about the same time The WB decided urban comedy wasn't big enough for them--and overnight they changed their format and all the creative dramas they fostered were gone. A case in point is the fun, maddening and super cool adventure series Nowhere Man. My girl gave me this series for Christmas last year--2005, for those who are easily confused--and we watched all twenty-five episodes in a matter of weeks. Bruce Greenwood is perfect as Tom Veil--he does confusion and desperation to an art form. It takes a look at identity, humanity and how easily either, or both can be fractured and altered into something nearly unrecognizable. It was created as an homage to the old British televison series The Prisoner, and it succeeded--unfortunately it was canceled after only one season. (I'm still waiting for the release of the secretly produced second and third seasons--cross your fingers for me.)

The Sentinel found a larger audience and a longer run than Nowhere Man, but it was no less fun. It features super-hero-type Detective Jim Ellison and his super-funky sidekick Blair Sandburg. Ellison is the sentinel, which esentially means he has hyperactive senses--he hears, sees, and smells better than the rest of us, and uses all of these, and more keeping the good people of Cascade safe from the hard side. The Sentinel is campy, fun and oh so entertaining. Season one is available on DVD, and I can't wait until they release season two, and beyond.

I really enjoyed UPN in its early days, and I wish for its merger with The WB to be successful--afterall we still have Veronica Mars to look forward to. It's too bad it will be UPNs last good drama. Good luck to The CW. May they give better and better programming--give the crummy wrestling and unlaughable comedies a break and go back to UPN's roots. How about a The Sentinel reuinion. I bet Blair is sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Ring. Ring!

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