Taken (½*) (TV)

Posted on December 3rd, 2002 in Television by EngineerBoy

That’s right, that’s one half of one star. We watched about 90 minutes of this 2 hour mini-series debut episode, and that was all I could stand. I have enormous respect for Steven Spielberg, although that does not translate into liking everything he does. And the first 90 minutes of the debut episode of “Taken” combined the worst Spielbergian traits, in my opinion. The beginning of the show contains a voice-over by what sounds like an 8 year old boy, talking in an inexplicably erudite manner, but with a child’s voice. Think of Harrison Ford’s voice-over in “Blade Runner”, without the cursing, done by an adolescent boy, and you’ll get the idea. Now, picture that what he’s narrating is set in a treacly, plasticized, idealized vision of the 1940’s. Here’s a list of hackneyed clichés from just the first 90 minutes:

  1. Blond, square-jawed, blue-eyed Marine who appears to be a good guy, but also seems to have a darker side.
  2. The plain-Jane daughter of the colonel, with whom BEM (blue-eyed Marine) flirts, apparently to curry favor with the colonel
  3. The bad-girl in the convertible, with whom the BEM flirts a bit more aggressively, and whom the BEM snubs in order to culture favor with plain-Jane, even though he’s *really* attracted to bad-convertible-girl
  4. Nazi’s in a dream/flashback/nightmare
  5. Gruff-but-lovable dad hiking with his two Boy Scout sons, coming across something otherworldly, then taking BEM there to look at it
  6. Brave, efficient American WWII pilots being shot down in a vroomy dogfight
  7. Strange lights (like the small ones in Close Encounters) swooping in to “save” the shot down plane
  8. Typical 1940’s diner waitress at the end of her shift, being told by the gruff-but-lovable cook/owner to go home, and that her husband isn’t good enough for her
  9. Waitress’ good-for-nothing husband leaving on a sudden three week business trip saying, “If you need me, call the home office. They know where I’ll be.”
  10. Bad-convertible-girl almost getting decapitated by the crashing saucer in Roswell, NM, then wandering through the crash site and picking up a strange piece of metal
  11. Bad-convertible-girl showing up at BEM’s office with metal in a paper sack, telling him she needs to talk to him, *not* telling him what it’s about, he assumes it’s relationship-related, so has an underling send her packing
  12. Brave, efficient, shot-down, alien-probed pilot returning home to a world where everything he knows is wrong (and his life is not his own)
  13. Lights in the sky making car engines die out
  14. UFOs being explained as weather balloons
  15. Dead alien bodies laid out in the desert, looking just like the aliens from Close Encounters
  16. Crashed alien ship, four dead alien bodies, but the ship had…dramatic music…*five* seats…duh duh duhhhhhhhh (it couldn’t possibly be that there was one empty seat)
  17. Mysterious, ailing visitor showing up in the barn (replete with door flapping and banging in the wind), and being taken in by 1940’s waitress (who’s husband happens to have just left on a “business trip”)
  18. And on, and on, and on, and on…

I am not even doing justice to the awful triteness of this episode. I understand that the premise of the series is that all the standard UFO conspiracy theories are true, so they have to be trotted out here, but they are portrayed in the most unexciting, uninvolving way possible. Why, oh why, can’t directors who are trying to capture the essence of 1940’s America go back and watch movies that were made in the 1940’s, rather than watch movies that were made *about* the 40’s, and copy their feel? It appears that the director of this episode did the latter, as he/she seems to have presented a hazy vision of somebody else’s dimly realized vision of the 40’s. Blech.

There was not one single scary, surprising, tense, emotional, funny, or thought-provoking event in the what I saw of this episode. I didn’t care about any of the characters. The acting was unremarkable. The special effects were unremarkable.

I was very excited about this series, and sat down with great anticipation expecting, at the very least, to be entertained. I wasn’t, in the least. On the skepticism scale, I lean a little towards the maybe-we-don’t-really-know-everything side of the curve, meaning that I would not be surprised to find out that we (humans) were not alone in the universe, but I also don’t *believe* that aliens have already visited Earth, and the proof is being hidden from us. I believe that it is *possible* they have visited, but not that it is *probable*. So, I am probably right square in the middle of the target market for this series. But it did nothing for me. Less than nothing, in that I resented it for a) giving me expectations that I would enjoy it, and b) not only not meeting those expectations, but actually subjecting me to 90 minutes of discomfort and unpleasantness, instead.

The whole series may turn out to be enjoyable, but I will not be around to find out. If you end up watching it, and it ends up getting better (a *lot* better), please let me know (by posting a response here), because I really want to like this show, and would watch it in reruns if it somehow got interesting.

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