Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2002-04-05 Entry: "One Series, Two Different Shows"

In my mad scheme to transfer video to CD to cut down on weight and space for the move, I hit another show on Wednesday evening. Spurred on by Channel 4's apparent adoption of American broadcasting patterns, by showing a repeat of a Smallville episode we've already seen, I proceeded to the next "miscellaneous" tape, and the first episode of "The Burning Zone."

This show manages a reasonably long run, 19 episodes according to epguides.com but has one slight peculiarity. Other than the usual cast shuffle after the pilot episode, most series stick to one theme and continue with it. Some, fearing cancellation due to poor viewing figures, throw away the viewers they were acquiring by becoming something completely different. The Burning Zone appears to have gone through something like this.

It starts out appearing to be a show about viruses. A small, elite team fight infectious diseases around the United States. However, these viruses have mystical properties. There's a pseudo-religious theme going on throughout these first episodes. The pilot has a sort of Queen Virus, that controls all the other viruses and keeps them in check. Later episodes have killer plants on religious festivals, and a mysterious faith healer (as well as the fairly silly near death experience episode).

Then, midway through the series, two of the leads disappear, a new doctor is introduced, and the whole thing becomes about government conspiracies, and illegal company testing. There are also a couple of really silly diseases, but there's no mystical mumbo-jumbo anywhere in the show.

Personally I prefer the first half of the series, as the second half is just an investigative show with medical stuff every week. It may have been better if they'd run both types of show together, interpersing them from week to week, with the first pair of doctors handling the mystical craziness, and the other guy handling the conspiracies and run of the mill infections.

The only other show which shows such an about face is "The Net," which starts off as girl on the run, followed by girl trying to fight mysterious organization, followed by girl defeating mysterious organization and joining the FBI. Okay... they didn't know what they were doing! And they probably didn't manage to retain many fans. Leave it alone people, let it build an audience.

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