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TV shows in some ways can be compared to sports people. Too many times you will see a boxer or a runner carrying on their career well beyond their prime. Memories of great victories are sullied by more recent embarrassing attempts to recapture old glories. In film an additional unwanted sequel can tarnish what you first thought of the original e.g. Shrek the Third. The flogging of a dead horse is also found on TV and this is perhaps the case with The Dead Zone as it enters its fifth season. Will the move from a dark set of storylines to a lighter set work?
As we enter the fifth season Johnny Smith is still seeing the past after coming out of a coma. He has done away with his cane, but he is still on the trail of Senator Stillson, a man who Smith believes will bring about the apocalypse. As well as dealing with the story arc Smith also has to aid his friend Sheriff Bannerman in solving crimes that occur in the local area. To top things off Smith is also dealing with the fact that is ex-fiancée and child has moved in with the Sheriff whilst he was in a coma for 5 years. Can Smith rebuild his life whilst trying to avert the end of days?
Season 5 of The Dead Zone is an unfortunate low point in the show so far. I believe this is for a couple of reasons namely the tone of the show and the diminished budget. The Dead Zone started off as quite a moody and dark show as Johnny Smith had to deal with the frightening ability to see memories and the future. Initially he was in turmoil as he witnessed future events that would see his friends die or feel the pain of a murder victim. The plots were quite straight forward but they engaged the viewer. Recently, this fear have gone as Johnny now understand his powers, unfortunately so do most of the people in the state of New England, so most of the suspicion is gone. The tone has lightened up and the storylines have become absolute cliché cheese. In previous series I always liked the standalone episodes best as they offered new and interesting ideas. Now the only episodes that keep the old feel are the Stillson episodes. The tone has certainly taken a tone for the worse.
The second part of the show that has noticeably reduced is the budget. Having watched the extras a couple of box sets ago I noticed that the makers had gone from using film to hi-def digital. This was because the show was going to be axed unless costs fell. However, I get the feeling that this is not the only budget cut as the special effects have become noticeably less impressive. In season 1-3 Johnny would freeze time and walk around scenes similar to Hiro in Heroes. This no longer happens and the show is worse for it. I do not mind weaker special effects but the scripts must make up for it, and they dont.
I feel that Season 5 never reached the potential for a show about a man who can see things. Shows like Medium have proven that there are endless things you can tackle in a dark and adult way. This season also managed to sideline a lot of the regular characters in the show. This was especially the case with Sarah, Johnnys ex. She does not even appear in the first half of the series, probably because she is getting better work elsewhere. This continued throughout the show with only Johnny and Bruce getting much air time. One character that did get more time that I would have liked was Reverend Purdy. I find this character very dull. How many times will the lord forgive a man who has stolen, helped kill people, turned a blind eye etc. His pious stance really gets on my nerves.
Despite my misgivings The Dead Zone is still a fairly good show, especially for people who have invested in the characters already. All the main characters are likable and the relationships between them are fun and interesting. I also think that the calibre of acting is good, especially Anthony Michael Hall in the lead. Hall has made Johnny Smith into a very charismatic man who is worth watching on the small screen.
With over 60 episodes produced I hope that the next season moves the show on a little and that the rumoured redarkening of the stories occurs. The recent season 3 of The 4400 has shown that a show can move from cheesy to dark and work really well. I would certainly recommend this show to science fiction fans but suggest starting from the beginning as it was far better then. Fans of the show will get enough from this box set to warrant its purchase, but it is unlikely to be good enough to attract new fans. The Dead Zone is a fun family science fiction show that is certainly worth viewing from season 1.
Starring: Anthony Michael Hall
Price: CD WOW £15.99 (Currently only available in America)
There are some episodes that have interesting audio commentaries from the cast and a couple of pretty bland featurettes. Nothing as good as on Season 4 disks.