Monday, March 31, 2008

No One Watched It But Me: "Brimstone"

How can you tell I really love television? Because I keep coming back to it, no matter how many times it breaks my heart. My brain is littered with the memories of TV shows that, for one reason or another, just didn't make it.

Here at the ISTV Global Stronghold, we're preparing for a drought period. The mid-season shows are mostly wrapped up or canceled, and post-strike shows are a few weeks away (but reminder: new "Office" this week). So now feels like a good time to introduce a new semi-regular feature, a trip into a storied past of shows that were well-loved by not very many people, but remembered fondly by all of them. A segment we're calling...

"TV Shows Watched By No One But Me"

The Show:
"Brimstone," Fox, 1998

The Premise:
Dead cop Ezekiel “Zeke” Stone, damned to Hell for murdering his wife's rapist, is recruited by the Devil to capture 113 escaped souls.

What Made It Special:
- First off, it was a good-looking show, employing the washed-out color palette style years before “CSI: NY” did it;
- It featured a lot of sharp, deadpan dialogue, which is easy to do when your second male lead is the Devil (John Glover, using his gleeful malevolence to full effect before “Smallville” made a cartoon out of him);
- It made clever use of the lead character’s natural limitations, such as his lack of funds beyond the daily $33 stipend that was in his pockets when he died; or, thanks to a 15-year culture gap, his burning desire for 1983’s favorite snack treat, a Reggie Bar;
- In one segment, Zeke bounces the show’s plot off hotel manager/aspiring writer Lori Petty; to his chagrin, she immediately reconceives it as “The God Squad,” believing Zeke’s premise to be too much of a downer nobody would be interested in (and I fully believe this was an actual producer's reaction to the show).

Sample Dialogue:
Father Horn: The Devil, he appears to you as a man?
Zeke: Yeah. He looks a lot like a kid I used to beat the crap out of in sixth grade…I’m sure that’s on purpose.

Signs It Was Going Somewhere Good:
With an open-minded priest and Lori Petty's hotel manager, the series kept adding interesting personalities to its supporting cast, smartly recognizing that Zeke would need to talk to someone other than the Devil to get things moving in new directions.

Signs It Might Not Have Been Going Anywhere At All:
About eight episodes in, it was pretty much the same episode every time: Ezekiel has to track down a soul; Ezekiel runs into problems killing it; Ezekiel figures out the trick and kills the soul, and has some wittily bitter banter with the Devil. Roll Credits.

Sign the Producers Knew They Didn’t Have Much Time Left:
Teri Polo's cop/love interest character is quickly and clumsily outed as one of the escaped souls. Really? Devil didn't notice that the detective helping Zeke out might be a little familiar?

Why No One Watched:
It aired on Fridays at 9. (SPOILER: This answer will show up a lot.)

Available on DVD?
Sure, if you search Torrentz and have a DVD burner. (Which I do. I love my "Brimstone" DVDs.)

Where You've Seen It Since:
The plot has been basically recycled – with no visual style, no sense of danger, and a languid sense of humor – as "Reaper," currently not being watched by a whole new generation on the CW.

1 comment:

thechicgeek said...

I kind of like Reaper, although I'm not entirely sure why. I think it's the lovable sidekick "sock." He's funny.

But really, that's about the only reason I watch it.