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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 Lost Room (***) by Laura Harkcom, Christopher Leone, and Paul Workman
The Lost Room The Lost Room is a three part, six hour (meaning about four hours not counting commercials) mini-series on the SciFi Channel, the first SciFi miniseries to generate any buzz since the execrable Tales of Earthsea, and the best since Children of Dune. It has some clever ideas. It sets up rules and then works out the logical consequences of those rules in interesting ways. The characters are appealing oddballs.

On the other hand, it has some really dumb moments, the most outstanding being a romance between two people who just met, who have nothing in common, and who don't act at all the way real people act when they are attracted to one another. They seem to jump into bed just because they are in a motel room and, well, that's what people do in motel rooms.

But this isn't any ordinary motel room. The objects in this room each have a power, all different powers.

There is a lot of story here, so if you can forgive a toy castle with brass doorknobs and other duh! moments, you will be mildly entertained. Only, don't watch it in reruns on SciFi.

Imagine reading a book according to the following pattern. You read Chapter One and then read a page in the middle of Chapter Two. Then you read Chapter Two and a page in the middle of Chapter Three. And so on. Nobody would ever read a book like that. So why does the SciFi Channel think it can increase its audience by showing a key scene from the next segment at the end of each segment?

No, if you didn't watch The Next Room on SciFi, and do want to see it, wait for the DVD.

And expect a sequel, maybe a spin-off series, but not as good as the original, which owes most of its appeal to its originality.

Heroes "Genesis" (***), by Tim Kring
Heroes Why do writers put dumb things in clever stories?

Take, for example, a scene in this first episode of the hit series Heroes. Three people are watching an eclipse of the sun, one in New York, one in California, and one in Japan.

Several possibilities occur to me. One is that Tim Kring went to a really bad grade school and was never taught that the Earth is round. Another is that Tim Kring has such contempt for his viewers that he thinks they went to really bad grade schools and don't know the earth is round. The most likely explanation, however, is that Tim Kring knows perfectly well that the earth is round, and that his viewers know the earth is round, just as the writers of The Lost Room know perfectly well that toy castles don't have brass doorknobs, and the writers of Ka-Zar know perfectly well that, at the South Pole, the days and nights are not 12 hours long. And they just don't care about making sense. Making sense is not a priority.

Even so, Heroes is worth watching. But it would be so much better if the writers really cared about what they were writing, cared enough to take the trouble to make sense.

Copyright © 2006 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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