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TV Review: Cameron episode might not be enough to save 'Dark Angel'

Friday, May 03, 2002

By Rob Owen Post-Gazette TV Editor

In a last-ditch effort to save the sci-fi series he created with Charles Eglee, feature film director James Cameron ("Titanic," "Terminator") directed tonight's season -- and possibly series -- finale of Fox's "Dark Angel."

'Dark Angel'

WHEN: 8:30 tonight on Fox.


The sophomore drama got off to a ratings-winning start when it premiered almost two years ago, but even by the end of last season its renewal was in question. This fall Fox moved the show from Tuesday to Friday, the television equivalent of a one-way ticket to Siberia. Ratings, predictably, plummeted.

Personally, I wasn't wild about "Dark Angel" from the start. Maybe it was the overly dour, nihilistic setting, a future in which trash-strewn ghettos predominate American city corridors. Or perhaps it was because the show never seemed to have much to say. The characters seemed underdeveloped and disconnected from one another, the plots uninvolving.

Series star Jessica Alba is appealingly tough, and the decision by writers to make it impossible for her Max to get together with love interest Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly) due to some lethal allergy certainly gives the show a "Romeo & Juliet"-like yearning. But it wasn't enough to make me watch every week.

"Dark Angel" never had a sense of direction. Producers couldn't seem to figure out who was in their cast. Each season, Fox's press notes listed about half the number of cast members who ultimately wound up in the opening credits. By the time press guides are printed, publicists generally know who will be a series regular. "Dark Angel" always felt like it was made up on the fly, much more so than other series.

Tonight's 90-minute finale, with a story by Cameron & Eglee and a script by Ira Steven Behr & Rene Echevarria, has several big action scenes that allow Cameron to show off. Max surfs atop a police hover camera, a fight scene goes on and on and the finale lets Max rally the troops.

Those troops are transgenics, humans whose genetic engineering went awry, giving many of them large pupils and bad teeth. Things go bad when police chase transgenics to the Jam Pony messenger service, where Max's own genetic engineering is revealed to all and she's cornered by pursuer White (Martin Cummins).

For his first foray into series television, Cameron filmed a mostly tight, action-packed installment, but the endless fight scene could have been trimmed. Regardless, it's probably not enough to win renewal: "Dark Angel" seems destined for TV-show heaven.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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