Down the Ballot

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Go Screen Yourself: The Lone Gunmen (TLG)

Spin-offs are often found in love/hate relationships with viewers of the shows of their origin. Some of us love latching on to some aspect of the original show and seeing it flourish into something that rivals the original. The 1980s hit Cheers spawned two spin-offs. One of them centered around Dr. Fraiser Crane. His show was called Fraiser. It was a ratings success story. It allowed Kelsey Grammer to play Dr. Crane from 1984-2004. The second spin-off, well technically the first spin-off, was The Tortellis. Chances are you've never heard of the show. Don't worry you didn't miss much. The Tortellis revolved around Cheers waitress Carla Tortellis' (Rhea Perlman) ex husband Nick and his 2nd wife introduced in Cheers. The show didn't last more than 13 episodes. What makes a spin-off successful is uncertain. Clearly Fraiser had something that the Tortellis didn't. Today's Go Screen Yourself recommendation is a spin-off of  FOX's acclaimed "X-Files" called The Lone Gunmen.

The series revolved around supporting characters and friends of FBI Agent Fox Mulder. They operated a conspiracy theory magazine called "The Lone Gunmen". It ran the stories the 'professional journalists' wouldn't run. The X-Files chronicled the development of the Gunmen and their back story. The spin-off essentially picks up as if we had been watching for seasons. In a way, X-Files fan have been watching the Gunmen for several seasons, it's just now they have their own show. 2001 was a strange year for this show. The pilot episode centers around a government conspiracy to hijack a commercial airliner and fly it into the World Trade Center and blame the incident on terrorists in order to spur greater military development. The episode aired in March 2001, a full six months prior to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The parallels between the actual event and the fictional event played out on television are eerie. It makes for fascinating discussion not only among conspiracy theorists, but also the average viewer. One of the main differences between The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen is the type of mysteries profiled in the episodes. While X-Files mainly deal with alien black oil, cannibalistic poultry company cults, and secret train alien autopsies. The Lone Gunmen deal in more real world, practical mysteries like government conspiracies, corporate espionage and intrigue, and even lovers quarrels.

13 episodes make up the short series. It was released on dvd in three discs. In addition to the 13 episodes of TLG, there also exists 38 X-Files episodes, spanning from seasons 1-9 and two video games that include the Lone Gunmen. This makes perfect viewing for fans of Melvin Forhike (Tom Braidwood), Ringo Langly (Dean Haglund) and John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood). In addition to the three main stars of the series, the cast included Stephen Snedden (Jimmy Bond) and Zuleikha Robinson (Yves Adele Harlow). The cast had good chemistry, which is difficult to attain when the bulk of the cast are already well established characters in the Chris Carter universe.

My one big problem with the series is that at times I feel the humor stole scenes and sometimes detracted from the conflict in the show. Don't get me wrong watching blind football players in "Bond, Jimmy Bond" was funny, it just seemed a little too much at times. The "Pilot" episode seemed more like an X-Files episode in the serious nature and plot of the show, while another episode "Eine Kleine Frohike" seemed overly silly. The best episodes were the ones that found a balance between the story and humor. "Tango De Los Pistoleros" and "The Lying Game" stand out as top notch Gunmen episodes. If you were a fan of  The X-Files and haven't seen this show you need to watch it. You will be thinking and laughing. The pilot episode alone is worth watching just to have an 'oh my god' moment.

In the years since 2001, the law and order police drama type shows have sprouted in abundance on the airwaves. The good guys always seem to get the bad guys. The good guys are always right and just. Patriotic television was and is still very popular with the viewing audience. It is a shame there isn't a show like the Gunmen; the journalists who watch the watchers. True patriots. For a spin-off, the Lone Gunmen may not have lasted long, but they certainly made their mark.

Youtube offers a "LoneGunmenTV" channel where you can watch the first two episodes: "Pilot" and "Bond, Jimmy Bond". Here's the intro credits for your previewing pleasure.

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