Created by Michael Piller
Starring Anthony Michael Hall
Love him or hate him, Stephen King really knows how to tell a scary story. What’s more important than the actual story in King books though, are the characters. They’re all unique and well developed with a level of depth not common with many other similar books. That unique character design is what makes so many of his stories attractive for theatrical adaptation and more importantly good targets for TV adaptation.
It’s unclear why more of King’s stories aren’t successful television shows but Dead Zone is a good example of how it can be done. The show has a niche following to say the least but that following was strong enough to give the series a six year run.
The original book, and the original film, focused on a man who had the ability to see that a single person wielding power via the government would bring on mass destruction and how the man would choose to use this information. Yes the lead character, played by Christopher Walken, used the ability to help a few other people but the core of the film and book was the dilemma that he must do something or the country could be destroyed.
The series takes a different spin on the story while not destroying what was done in the previous film and book. For better or for worse this series was not serialized the way so many current shows are. Instead it was episodic with some exceptions where a single story might stretch across a few episodes. It took me a while to settle into this type of show having been following shows like Battlestar Galactica, LOST, and 24 for so long I’m addicted to the serialized concept. Even after settling into the “story of the week” setup I have to say I still prefer a more serialized but with that said the episodes in this season of the Dead Zone were well done and entertaining. Stylistically the show varies wildly from romance, to mystery, to darker stories, and even comedy and family drama. The consistency and evolution of the characters, most notable of course is Johnny, is what ties all of the very different kinds of stories together. Yes there is character development that stretches across the series but it’s not so heavy that you have to see every episode to keep up with what’s going on, like a serialized show.
Anthony Michael Hall, the actor that John Hughes built, was an odd choice for a role that was so well constructed by someone who was much moodier and darker than Hall could ever hope to portray. It worked because the “boy next door” appeal of Hall grounds him and makes him feel like someone who viewers could be friends with who is also dealing with the amazing ability on a day to day basis.
It’s not my favorite kind of show as I prefer more serialization, but it is so well executed that I believe even serialized show snobs like me will still dig this one.
The video is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio enhanced for 16:9 TV’s and overall it looks solid. There is some grain typical to so many TV presentations on DVD but detail looks good for the most part and colors are well reproduced from the source materials.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sould is fairly basic, typical of a television to DVD presentation. In other words the surround environment only gets minimal use. The balance of dialogue, score, and effects sounds is very clean and well done though. This is an above average TV to DVD presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three disc set comes packaged with a big headshot of Anthony Michael Hall on the front. This would normally really annoy me but the art is consistent with the ad campaign that I remember5 from USA Network when the show was on. It’s still annoying but it’s consistent with the marketing of the seires making it easily recognizable to fans as it sits on the shelf in Best Buy.
There are actually a few featurettes on the last disc! The first featurette covers the move the production made from Vancouver to Montreal. There are cast and crew comments on the move and the challenges it posed. It’s sort of an odd thing to focus on but in a way it’s just what I want from bonus features. As a fan I really want to see behind the scenes of the production and this move was a major change for the series. Next there’s a brief featurette that covers the shooting of the episode “Switch” which was shot entirely on a train.
Finally there are four audio commentaries on various episodes of the season that offer some additional behind the scenes depth to the creation of this final season of the Dead Zone.
Not a classic series in the vein of The X-Files but a good bit of entertainment for science fiction fans. Definitely worth checking out.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
The Season 7.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10