Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nowhere Man

This week, NOWHERE MAN was released on DVD. It was a television show on Fox back in '95. It lasted for only one season. It was about a photographer who shot something that he shouldn't have. The Powers That Be want the photograph, the hero won't capitulate...so they set about erasing his life and identity. Everyone who knows him have been convinced, coerced, or bullied into not acknowledging or helping him. So he's on the run, without an identity, living on the fringes of society...pursued by a faceless enemy who want that photograph. And the thing is, you get the impression that they could get it anytime...but they WANT him to admit that he's broken, say "uncle". It was a product of the conspiracy-saturated X-FILES era of the mid-Nineties Then it occurs to me that this whole existential quest for identity, purpose, sanity, and integrity is a recurring theme in television. THE PRISONER is the most obvious early example. Spy(played by Patrick McGoohan) tries to quit THE BUSINESS, he is asked why, he refuses to answer, gets knocked out, and is relocated to a semi-paradise island prison-island where The Village is located. He is given a number instead of a name, he is monitored, harassed for the reason, and he continues his escape-attempts in the meantime. Not sure if he actually succeeds according to that bad-trip last episode. A western called LAZARUS MAN was out around the same time. A noir-nightmare Western about a man(Robert Urich) waking up without his memory trying to find clues to his former life...Was he a spy? A shootist? A government operative? Old flames kept appearing, people with grudges showed up with an aim to put a bullet-hole in him...sometimes both at the same time. Also a short-lived show. THE PRETENDER is about a government experiment called JARED who can adopt the skills and expertise of others but has no real identity nor life of his own outside the aims of his leash-holders. So he's escaped and leads them on a merry chase while he uses his genius-level skills to help the strangers he encounters on the way. He wants information about his mother and frequently contacts his pursuers offering them deals even as he stays two steps ahead of them. I was told about a short-lived series called JOHN DOE. An amnesiac idiot-savant who has an endless array of skills and expertise to help the police with their cold-cases all the while wishing he knew his OWN identity... To a lesser extent, these themes are touched upon in shows like QUANTUM LEAP where time-traveling scientist leaps into the lives of others to fix what once went wrong...he frequently has gaps in his memory especially in the early shows. THE FUGITIVE template repeats itself constantly as well...Dr. Richard Kimball wants to clear his name of his wife's murder. And he's on the run from police inspector Gerard as he interacts with and helps the lives of ordinary people...THE INCREDIBLE HULK where David Banner is on the run pretending to be dead while he searches for a cure for his monster-transformations...And then you have the government-chasing-innocent-extraterrestrials fugitive format...THE PHOENIX(Judson Scott) and STARMAN(Robert Hays...a sequel on the movie of the same name...) KUNG FU with David Carradine comes to mind. A peaceful man roaming the violent untamed west in search of some kind of answers within himself... I'm also reminded of THE TRUMAN SHOW...very PRISONER-esque in its attempt to keep Truman Burbank it his artificial televised environment for the entertainment of television viewers worldwide...A show that his "father" Christoff created for him to take care of the orphaned child...His stepping through that exit door is a HUGE decision for him. There's something in the human psyche that wants to frame these eternal questions into some sort of quest-narrative framework. And who knows? Sometimes these programs even provide an solid, tangible answer or ending...After all, Doctor Richard Kimble found his wife's killer and cleared his name. I'm not sure if the OTHERS were successful in their quest. (David Banner dies, for example, never finding the cure for his hulk-outs...or rather, his DEATH is the cure.) This drives home the fact that our quest for answers may never be completely answered... Let us keep searching...GaP

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