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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

The end of April brings new episodes of Jeremiah, Enterprise, and The X-Files. They are:
Wednesday, April 24
Enterprise, "Detained" by David Livingston
Friday, April 26
Jeremiah, "The Red Kiss" by Sam Egan
Sunday, April 28
The X-Files, "William" by David Duchovny, Chris Carter, and Frank Spotnitz

The X-Files, "Improbable" (*) by Chris Carter

X-Files The pre-show spot with the three stars shows them breaking up over the prospect of this intentionally bad episode. It's about numerology, and Burt Reynolds plays God -- a particularly charming and sadistic God, it would seem, who keeps urging a serial killer to just exercise his free will and stop killing, when, God knows, there isn't any such thing as free will, the universe being entirely paint-by-numbers, our birth date being our destiny.

The big problem with this concept is that camp went out with the Adam West Batman. The story is full of nudges and winks to let us know that the stupidity is entirely intentional. Chris wants us to know that he is really a very clever and cool guy, who is just making this dumb TV show because, well, because... No, wait a minute, why is a clever and cool guy making an intentionally dumb TV show?

The biggest problem is that, dumb as this show is, it isn't all that much dumber than the last two seasons of The X-Files. They should have quit, or moved into films, while the show was still worth watching.

The next episode after this one is titled "Jump the Shark", but the truth is The X-Files jumped the shark a long time ago. When, exactly? Some would say with "A Postmodern Prometheus", in which we get a version of The X-Files as a comic book that is insulting to comic books. But I give that episode points for its clever title.

More than a year ago in this column, I predicted that once we, the viewers, demonstrated our willingness to sit through a virtually unlimited number of commercials, TV would start showing commercials during the program. That happens during this episode, with a banner running across the bottom of the screen in the middle of the story. This is Fox's way of thumbing their noses at us, of saying "we know you haven't got a life and will just keep on sitting there no matter what we do". Those of us who do have a life are saying, "It's a good thing there are only five more episodes, or I'd have been out of here a long time ago."

When the Adam West Batman first came on the air, it was funny, and had excellent production values. To give just one example, the trademark "Smash! Bam! Pow!" lettering that appeared on the screen was hollow, so you could see the picture behind it. About a year later, executive producer William Dozier, in a TV Guide interview, said something to the effect, "We found out we could save a lot of money by using solid lettering. It's a lot cheaper, and nobody noticed." We all noticed. The show had become cheap and repetitive. We stopped watching. Batman went off the air.

The producers who think the audience doesn't get it -- they are the ones who don't get it. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

Jeremiah, "The Bag" (**) by Sam Egan

Jeremiah This is the first Jeremiah written by the show's other writer, Sam Egan. The story is about what passes for a doctor after The Big Death. It's OK, but lacks the emotional resonance and the hints at a bigger picture, that make the J. Michael Straczynski episodes worth watching.

Copyright © 2002 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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