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TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
Season One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones, Brian Austin Green
Executive Producer:  Josh Friedman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  394 Minutes
Release Date:  August 19, 2008

“The war to save mankind begins…now…”

 

Show ***

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but usually when I find a show I like, it takes some time.  I’m generally not hooked right away, but a good show can pull you in over the course of a season and make you a die-hard fan.

I had no such issues with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  If anything, I found the first season gave me the opposite:  I was hooked immediately, but by the time the first year wound down, I was a little perplexed and somewhat disappointed.

That may be owing to the writers’ strike.  I had heard on a radio show that the producers of the program had to step in and write the last couple of episodes themselves.  I don’t know it that’s really the truth, but it would explain a great deal.  I expected the finale to blow me back in my seat, the way the pilot episode did.  But instead, I found I wasn’t hanging on with anticipation for the next year.

The SCC (mind if I call it that for short?) begins a bit in our past.  Sarah Connor (Headey, confidently seizing the reins from Linda Hamilton) is still protecting her now-teenage son John (Dekker).  They live off the grid and move around a lot.  She’s always waiting for the next move from the machines of the future.

They, of course, want to win their future war against humanity by stopping the humans’ greatest leader, which would be John.  Figuring it would be easier to go back in time and stop him from ever becoming said leader, they had tried twice and failed. 

Now, they’re ready to try again.  No, Ah-nuld isn’t around this time; he’s become the Governator.  But there are still terminators a-plenty, and it’s getting harder and harder for Sarah and John to stay alive.

When the humans send back a good terminator named Cameron (Glau), the story takes an interesting twist.  They launch themselves into the future (our time), and prepare for new battles.  This explains (at least for now) how Sarah managed to stay alive even though the third movie informed us she had died from cancer.

They are mostly alone, but there is a human resistance in our time, led by Kyle Reese’s brother Derek (Green), but in addition to the deadly machines, there is an FBI agent (Jones) who keeps stumbling onto the trail of the impending war, and has no idea what to make of it. 

The series offers plenty of action and sci-fi smarts…maybe not at the level of the first two feature films, but more than you might expect from a television program.  The show was expensive to make, and it looks it.  The characters start off well-established to fans, and their prelude to war is more like a chess game, as the pieces are aligning against them and pointing toward the creation of Skynet and the beginning of the end.

However, just at the point when the show should have been at its strongest, the plot nearly collapses into absurdity.  I won’t give anything away, but I was really left scratching my head and wondering if this was the best they could do.  Had the entire run been weak like The Bionic Woman, I may not have even noticed.  But whatever happened to cause the derailment, the show’s creators have a lot to learn about how to keep their audiences riveted for the next season.

I’m glad the show is coming back, and I think the first season earned enough points with me to merit continued viewing.  The SCC has a lot to offer, but it needs to find firm footing again before taking us back into the battle for the future happening in our present day.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic widescreen transfer is plenty viable…this show offers more action and detail than most television programs, and that’s a real plus for DVD.  Darker scenes suffer a bit here and there with a touch of murkiness and softness, but for the most part, the digital imagery is clean and clear.

Audio ***

Good 5.1 usage for a television show, too.  The action gives it extra dynamic range, although not quite as much subwoofer or rear channel discretion as I might have hoped.  Still a solid offering overall.

Features ***1/2

There are three episode commentaries with producer Josh Friedman with cast and crew members, and a 3 part look at the production of the series.  There is an extended cut of the episode “The Demon Hand”, cast audition tapes, unaired moments, storyboard animatic, a gag reel, and a look at the lovely Summer Glau in a dance rehearsal.

Summary:

All the ingredients are in place to make The SCC a landmark new sci-fi television show.  The first season offers thrills and smarts, but stumbled a little bit at the end.  However, this fine DVD offering points the way to the future and the second season, and I for one am ready.

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