Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NOWHERE MAN


NOWHERE MAN 1995 TV series. Created by Lawrence Hertzog.

Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood) goes out to dinner with his wife Alyson (Megan Gallagher) when his entire life changes in a moment. Coming back from the rest room he looks for Alyson, and is told by the manager that neither she nor he were even dining there, and that he's never seen them before. Alyson is back home -- but when he knocks on the door she claims that she doesn't know who he is. He can't get access to his bank accounts as his entire identity seems to be erased bit by bit. No one at the gallery where his photographs were exhibited remembers who he is. And so on and so on. It apparently all has to do with a controversial photo of a hanging that he took some years before. Or does it? In any case, Veil winds up in a nuthouse temporarily.

This ultra-paranoiac suspense thriller lasted for one season and 25 episodes, and it did have an ending [albeit one that was somewhat unsatisfying.] But it was also creepy, extremely well-acted, well-written, and consistently intriguing and entertaining. Some episodes would come along and make you realize that what you suspected or thought you knew wasn't true at all. Most of the episodes -- despite the somewhat "fantastic" premise, were reasonably logical, although at least one story about a pirate TV show is so completely illogical, indeed impossible, that it's almost surrealistic. This mistake wasn't repeated for the most part.

The best episodes were: "Paradise On Your Door Step," where Thomas winds up in The Prisoner-like town of New Phoenix; and "Forever Jung," where aging women who have been made young again -- including Alyson -- are turned into operators for whatever sinister organization is behind everything. [This episode probably influenced the later Alias.] Other memorable episodes had Thomas working as a janitor in a boy's school; encountering a computer nerd who never leaves his house; going back into the nuthouse to discover that one of the former patients is now a doctor; meeting a man (Dean Jones), who claims to be his father; traveling to a small town in the midst of a UFO craze; apparently waking up from a coma to discover everything is back to normal -- or so he thinks; and meeting an FBI man and discovering the aforementioned controversial photo was doctored and taken not in Nicaragua but in Washington D.C.

Out of 25 episodes only two were mediocre, and only one -- Tom mixes it up with street gangs and the homeless -- was terrible. Generally the scripts for the series were of a high order, with strong characterizations even of the supporting roles and a generous amount of sensitivity.

Whatever its flaws, Nowhere Man was compulsively watchable, and was one of the most memorable TV shows of the 90's. Bruce Greenwood's performance as Veil was superb, and there were fine guest performances from such actors as Ted Levine, Richard Kind, Carrie Ann Moss, Rafael Sbarge and others. Good eerie music helped tremendously as well.

Verdict: Nowhere Man may have ultimately gone nowhere, but it was a hell of a fun ride while it lasted. ***1/2.

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