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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.

As expected, the best of the Fall TV season is Jeremiah. The worst turns out to be Tarzan, which was so bad that I was embarrassed to be watching it.

Enterprise, "Raijin" (**) by Brent V. Friedman.
Enterprise Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, on the other hand, have thrown in the towel, and gone over to all sex and violence, all the time. I like sex and violence as much as the next guy. But why would anyone turn to television for sex and violence when they can watch Kill Bill? I don't know. Ratings are up.

In this episode, Captain Archer gives an alien sex slave the run of the Enterprise.

Star Trek has always been about ideas. What if a good person gains god-like powers? What if your spaceship faces an alien ship whose technology is an order of magnitude greater than your own? What if women have a drug that makes them more sexually alluring? But the third season of Enterprise has gone the way of the third season of the original Trek, as far as plots go -- no ideas, just people ducking behind bulkheads and shooting ray guns at each other. Ah, well, at least Star Trek still has the best special effects on television.

Jeremiah, "Letters from the Other Side I" (***) by J. Michael Straczynski.
Jeremiah The mystery of Valhalla Sector is solved. Sean Austin joins the cast, bringing with him a new mystery. There will be sixteen episodes in the second season, after which Straczynski will leave the show, at which point it might as well be over. You can almost see the suits standing over Straczynski's shoulder demanding, "Dumber! Make it dumber. It's not dumb enough. Our audience is really dumb. Make the show dumber," while JMS fights the good fight as long as he can and then throws up his hands in disgust.

Straczynski's best current work is not for television but for comics; "Happy Birthday" in The Amazing Spider-man and a rethinking of the Superman legend in "Supreme Power".

Tarzan, "Pilot" (*) by Eric Kripka.
Tarzan How many impossible things can you believe before breakfast? Can you believe that when corporate goons go on a mission to kidnap someone they wear the corporate logo on their uniforms? Can you believe that if an uncle kidnaps and holds prisoner his twenty-year-old nephew, the law is on his side? Can you believe that Tarzan can follow Jane's spoor halfway across Manhattan, when she is driving a car and he is following a half hour later, without a shirt or shoes?

I've heard that there was a better version of the Tarzan pilot. They showed it to a focus group, and the focus group wrote on their cards that the show was "too dark". By this they almost certainly meant that in many scenes there isn't enough light to tell Tarzan from Jane. (Hint: Tarzan is the pretty one with the long hair.) But the suits, of course, misunderstood the phrase "too dark" to mean what they mean by that phrase in the industry: too violent, too grim. And so they took out most of the violence, which was the only thing the show had going for it. Now we spend what seems like hours watching Jane -- Jane and her little sister, Jane and her boyfriend, Jane and her partner. Unfortunately they have cast a totally insipid Jane.

Copyright © 2003 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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