Posted on 9/06/04 12:53 AM
It only took 2 monstrously successful seasons of the X-Files before FOX started pleading with the show's creator Chris Carter for something else to fill some of their broadcasting holes, the result of their pleading was Millennium.
Millennium was to be highly distinguishable from the X-Files and instead of focusing on the paranormal and alien conspiracies it would instead focus on the darker aspects of the human mind. The most obvious comparison one could make is that Millennium is essentially the TV series version of the film Se7en. Certainly a bleak and sobering look at not only the lives of those who investigate the crimes, but at the seemingly hopeless world in which they happen. In this regard it is exactly like Se7en, but Se7en was only 2 hours long, the first season of Millennium features twenty-two 44 minute episodes. You can see how this perpetual bleakness can become depressing, which is precisely why it failed in the ratings and was cancelled after only three seasons. Personally, I always saw this as one of the series biggest draws, though the first season definitely could have taken itself a little less seriously.
The first season of Millennium quickly solidified the show as not only the most dark and disturbing show on network television, but at the time rivaled almost anything Cable had to offer. Visually it was comparable to the X-Files in its heavy use of darkness and shadows, but Millennium relied much more on fast and jarring cuts of horrific images a few frames at a time. There is little doubt in my mind that Millennium was and is one of TV's all-time greats in the visual department. The show's musical work is also among the very best in the history of television, not only in its use of songs, but it's outstanding orchestration week to week. Mark Snow's musical cues added a whole other layer to the show's already dense atmosphere.
I guess I should fill some of you who may not be familiar with the whole background of the show in as to what the show was all about. The central character is a man named Frank Black, who is still recovering after what was seemingly an emotional and physical breakdown due to his demanding career as a criminal profiler for the FBI. You see Frank has the gift... the curse of being able to put his mind into the mind of a killer and allows himself to think and feel how a killer does. Frank decides to retire from the FBI after the breakdown and move from Washington D.C. to Seattle, where he works as consultant on homicide cases as a member of the Millennium Group. The Millennium Group is a private entity made up of former law enforcement agents and other top crime-fighting minds such as Frank. The Group believes that there is a direct correlation in the high number of violent murders and ritualistic killings and the coming of the next Millennium (Please keep in mind this show began airing in 1996). Of course much of this or the Millenium Group in general is not really discussed until the second season, which is part of the problem with season one.
For all the great things that season one did for the series, it certainly had many glaring faults, chief among them is the serial killer of the week feel the season had. Throughout much of the first season there is zero continuity between episodes, and each week we are thrown into essentially the same scenario as the week before with minor changes. Once you get about a third of the way through the season you are bound to ask the inevitable question... Just how many highly motivated serial killers are there in the state of Washington? Then again a TV series dealing with homicide investigation is by its own nature going to be repetitive, especially if you are going to stay grounded within the confines of reality. Luckily the season does eventually begin to utilize its characters as more than just devices to push the plots along.
Speaking of the characters, I don't think I can go much further without pointing out the amazing work turned in by the cast. Lance Henriksen provides the series with some the best work turned in by a lead actor in modern TV drama, and he doesn't do it by going over the top, no his brilliance comes from his restraint. Lance can convey more through facial expression than just about any actor working today. Brittany Tiplady who plays Frank's daughter Jordan, consistently gives performances that rank her near the top of child actors on television.
This show has desperately needed a DVD release since TV series DVDs began to become popular in the late 90s, and thanks to a lot of heavy campaigning FOX finally released this set, and to their credit it is a lot better than you would expect from a show that was cancelled over 5 years ago. The video is not reference quality, but it is certainly above the quality of its original broadcasting and there is no real compression problems to speak of so there is really nothing more you should be asking for. In terms of extra materials you get two commentaries, one by Chris Carter on the Pilot and the other by the show's main director in season one David Nutter on the second episode Gehenna. There is also an excellent (While excellent by TV DVD standards anyway) making of season one featurette entitled "Order in Chaos" that runs nearly an hour. There is another featurette dedicated to the Academy Group which was the real life influence for the Millenium Group.
Millennium Season One is a fine addition to your collection of television DVDs, though I don't recommend you run right out and buy this set unless you are already a fan. Perhaps try downloading a few episodes first and see if you like it. I will reserve the must-buy rating for season two.
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