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Waiting for the U-Foes – Taken: Week One

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Halfway into the ten-part Taken, Spielberg’s mini-series has established a herky-jerky rhythm: ten minutes of rotely written soap opera followed by ten of good ol’ Muldery paranoia followed by scenes of melodramatic villainy that would probably be called “comic book” by a viewer less appreciative of well-realized comics wickedness.

Moving from the mid-forties to the early eighties, the story structure remains on the three families we met in the premiere outing, though by Ep Five the focus shifted to second and third generation family members. Snaky Owen Crawford, for example, is superceded by his wannabe snake son Eric (Andy Powers); former pilot Russel Keys turns out to be just the first in a family line of abductees, leading giggly overactor scientist Matt Frewer to theorize that the alien perpetrators are engaging in some form of genetic research/manipulation; while the offspring of a liaison between lonely waitress Mary Clark & that mysterious stranger spends much of his screen time running/hiding from nasty govt. types.
In all, the results have been mixed: in part due to the divers directoral hands that’ve been overseeing the series, but also due to constant scripter Leslie Bohem’s inconstant focus. In Ep Four, when a large chunk of screen time is devoted to Jesse Keys’ drug addiction, you could practically hear the American TV audience rustling in its couches. When slimy Owen sets up his alcoholic wife and weaselly assistant Walter, so he can kill ‘em both and make it look like a lovers’ quarrel, there’s a momentary kick in seeing the actor from Monk get icily dispatched ’til you realize that, hey, this doesn’t really add anything to the story. (We already knew that Owen was an s.o.b.) When son Eric attempts a futile romance with half-alien Jacob’s half-sister, the whole premise feels dubious and ho-hum – in part because the only real thing we know about Eric is the fact that he’s living under his father’s shadow.
As for the big money SciFi moments, these too were variable. A plotline featuring two victimized alien hybrid kids in Alaska comes across like refried Twilight Zone (the monsters . . . they’re us!) while a disastrous attempt at removing an alien implant from poor Russel’s brain is neatly gruesome. A recurring sinister carnival truck pleasantly recalls Bradbury more effectively than the series’ bobbling voiceover narration. I also enjoyed a palpably ludicrous scene where two sister psychics are enlisted to raise a downed UFO: may not’ve made a whole lot of sense, but it had a suitably tabloid feel to it that momentarily, at least, had me missing SciFi’s short-lived parody series, The Chronicle.
In our house, we’re planning on sticking to the end, though I wouldn’t fault anyone who decided to give up on the whole she-bang. A good TV mini-series can be an addictive pleasure; a bad one can feel like a nattering obligation. At this point, I still haven’t decided where Taken lies on that particular continuum. . .

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • Eric Olsen

    Can obligations be “nattering”? One is reminded of Spiro Agnew.

    I missed this one too, Thanks!

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com/ Bill Sherman

    They natter all the time in my house, but, then, I live in a pretty anthropomorphic environment. Too many Fleischer cartoons as a kid. . .

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