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TV: File Under: Lame

Sci Fi’s latest original series is a supernatural dud

Josh Bell

Now there's the channel's latest original series, The Dresden Files (Sundays, 9 p.m.), a completely cheesy and flat-footed mix of CSI and Harry Potter, which sounds like an utterly appealing concept (and has already fueled a successful series of books on which the show is based) but is executed so clumsily and dully that it makes you wish the network would take the idea back and hand it over to people who actually know what to do with it.

Granted, basic-cable shows like this usually have smaller budgets than network ones, so maybe the bad acting is the result of having to hire cheap actors. But other than Paul Blackthorne, who brings a sort of suave grittiness to main character Harry Dresden, a freelance wizard and private investigator, the rest of the actors are wooden and ill-cast, giving the show a low-rent vibe that you'd more expect from something that Sci Fi was re-airing in the middle of the night, not their most-hyped new offering.

Valerie Cruz is the very opposite of believable as the tough police lieutenant who provides Harry with info on the sly while also chastising him about not following the rules (a requisite person for all movie and TV P.I.s to have in their lives), and Terrence Mann, intended as comic relief as Harry's ghostly sidekick Bob, is just snotty and annoying. There's meant to be a bantery, chummy vibe among the main characters reminiscent of the supernatural crime-solvers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it only comes across as forced.

The plots, too, are predictable and rather tired variations on stories seen on Buffy, The X-Files and countless other supernatural dramas going back to the original The Outer Limits. That kid who tells Harry he sees monsters? How much you wanna bet those monsters are real? And that Harry will tackle them in the most uninteresting and obvious way possible?

Blackthorne's roguish charm might be able to carry the show eventually if the writing improves, and the concept is so simply engaging that it's hard to believe something entertaining can't be done with it. It's also nice to see Sci Fi branching out from their specific namesake genre, as this show is far more fantasy than science fiction, with emphasis on magic spells and mythical creatures and arcane organizations. It's also got a built-in fanbase from the book series, although it's not clear how they'll react to this poorly constructed adaptation.

There's probably no way to predict or replicate the combination of talent and material that gave birth to the brilliance of Battlestar Galactica, but with shows like Dresden, you have to wonder a little if Sci Fi is even trying.

  • Get More Stories from Thu, Jan 18, 2007
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