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September 20, 2002 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-20

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Friday
September 20, 2002
michigandaily.com/arts
mae@michigandaily.com

RTS

8A

4

John Doe' is ripe with trite
dialogue and bad performances

By Christian Smith
Daily Arts Writer

One would think that only UPN and
the WB could so easily botch a promis-
ing idea, but with its new amnesiac
drama, "John Doe," FOX has unmis-
takably done it. It is not implausible to
pull off a ridiculous concept, but when
that concept is escorted along by trite
dialogue and remarkable

Gourtesy of FOX
I love macaroni and cheese. I never say no to macaroni and cheese.
'Firefly' is a flicker of sci-fi hope

overacting, there isn't
much hope.
The premise behind
"John Doe" is this: A
mysterious (and naked)
man arises from the pri-
mordial waters off a
remote island, possessing

*

JOHN
Fridays a
FO)

a dark and enjoyable mystery makes
itself over into yet another tiring detec-
tive series in a landscape that's already
overcrowded with bad crime shows.
In a role that makes Hannibal Lecter
seem 'subtle, Dominic Purcell ("Mis-
sion Impossible II") plays John Doe
with astonishing abandon, uttering
meaningless pontifications to hot-dog
vendors like "I don't know the things
I'm supposed to know,
but I know the things
I'm not supposed to."
* For no apparent reason
other than to showcase
DOE his newfound intelli-
t 9 p.m. gence, we see Doebin a
ix series of unrealistic set-
X tings, blazing through
random questions about
everything from Apple Jacks' ingredi-
ents to South American populations.
(In another display of unnecessary self-
indulgence, Doe cranks out crossword
puzzles as he successfully answers
Jeopardy questions).
As Doe spouts arbitrary information
to anyone within earshot, he is joined
by Karen Kawalski (Sprague Gray-
den), his unwitting assistant and one of
his few friends;' Digger (William
Forsythe), a Seattle bar owner who in
the pilot episode may or may not have
given John a job playing piano in his

bar; and detective Frank Hayes (John
Marshall Jones), who seemingly
requires assistance in order to solve
any case. None of these supporting
characters are actually introduced; they
kind of just show up when convenient.
Much like the show itself, they just
flutter around in the background with-
out much explanation while John Doe
does his thing, all in attempt to uncov-
er the truth about who he is and where
he came from. But the real question
seems not to be 'Who is John Doe?'
but 'Who cares?'

By Ryan Blay
Daily TV/New Media Editor
Imagine a series following the exploits of Han Solo and
Chewbacca in space, as they evade the Empire and take ran-
dom assignments to survive and subsist.
Welcome to "Firefly."
It's 500 years into the future. Six years have passed since the
Alliance, on Unification Day, suppressed the fight for inde-
pendence in a universal civil war. One ship contains fugitives,
remaining at the edge of the galaxy where they
are constantly on the run.
FOX's new Friday night series gets with a
brilliant start tonight, with the Joss Whedon **
("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel")-direct-
ed episode, "Train Job." The main goal of the FIR
episode is to introduce the main characters on
board Serenity, a small transport ship. Like the Fridays
initial episode of "Enterprise," "Train Job" F(
centers on the captain, in this case one Mal-
colm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, "Sav-
ing Private Ryan"). Mal is a quick-thinking captain who
welcomes challenges and will take any assignment, no ques-
tions asked.
His crew comes with stories of its own. His first mate, Zoe,
seems to be one of the few loyal members of his crew. She is
married to Wash, the ship's pilot. Wash is a calmer but quieter
crewmember. Anger is saved for Jayne, who seems ready for a
mutiny or to betray any of his crewmates should the price be
right. Kaylee, the ship's mechanic, rounds out the quiet part of
the cast.
Of course, the ship wouldn't be entertaining without a
couple of oddballs. One is Inara, the classy hooker who may
have a thing for the captain. Scenes in which she and Shep-

E
at
O)

herd, the elderly priest, interact are wonderful. Simon, the
medic, appears normal, but he carries with him his sister, a
sort of psychic named River who is wanted badly by the
Alliance.
The mystique of this show is that it's not a purely sci-fi pro-
gram. Whereas "Star Trek" used lasers and holodecks, the
Serenity members have guns and knives. Their assignment,
commissioned by a Russian-type shady character, consists of
robbing a train and obtaining a mysterious crate. They are the
Kelly Gang with a ship. Even the theme song has a country fla-
vor to it.
The overlap can best be seen in fights. One
scene at a tavern features Mal, Zoe and Jayne
* against a group of pro-Alliance men angered at
Mal's anti-Alliance stance. The wild-west style-
FLY brawl that ensues is classic.
Snappy dialogue from Whedon (who also co-
t 8 p.m. wrote the episode) prevents the show from
X becoming a hokey morality tale, especially when
the captain discovers what it is they steal.
Like other Whedon works, the characters
manage to maintain a sense of humor (especially Mal) in the
face of danger. They also interact well with one another inter-
changeably, so the absence of the captain or Zoe from a scene
does not lead to a' pointless conversation. The little subplots
introduced in the pilot will surely be tracked in the upcoming
episodes. River's story, in particular, featuring a sort of "Clock-
work Orange" terror at The Academy, will be one to watch.
Why "Firefly" is not on Sunday nights to assume "The X-
Files"' time slot is debatable, especially when the'new show
will need solid ratings in addition to its critical acclaim to sur-
vive. But viewers who stay tuned will find something more
than a show designed for Trekkies. This very well could be
the season's finest new drama.

knowledge of literally
everything in the world, yet having no
memory of who he is. He quickly real-
izes this after being discovered by a
fishing vessel and is able to converse
fluently with the men in a strange for-
eign language, but is unable to tell him
anything about himself.
By and by, while the idea seems far-
fetched, it has potential. Until this mys-
terious man assumes the identity of one
'John Doe,' predicts which horse will
win every race at the track based on sta-
tistical probabilities and begins using
his gift to solve crimes. What begins as

0

Please, let my show not be cancelled.

SFA draw 'Rings' around Detroit

By Todd Weiser
Daily Film Editor

When the Super Furry Animals' name is mentioned to a
musically inquisitive friend, his first response is to ask you
to repeat their name three or four times until they finally get
it in their heads that yes, that really is their name. The fol-
low-up question, "Well, what do they sound like?" is where
the discussion gets even more difficult.
Welsh-born artists the Super Furry Animals touched on
almost every genre of music Wednesday night in Detroit,
crossing the spectrum from bubbly lounge
music to disturbing techno, and while the
smooth combination of such diverse influ- SUPEI
ences seems impossible, the Super Furries;
make great leaps in musical styles seem so AN
natural that their uniquely innovative sound At St. Ar
can easily go under appreciated by the casual
listener. Wednesd7
In support of last year's Rings Around theC
World, the Super Furries launched their second Clear
North American tour in a year, making their
first visit to Detroit in two years, at Saint Andrews Hall.
While the crowd size had much to be desired, the Welshmen
still made sure the good time they enjoyed onstage trans-
ferred to the faithful fans off of it.
From the cell-phone themed "Rings Around the World" to
the cynical Christian anthem "Run, Christian, Run," the
crowd was faced with an onslaught of the senses, reaping
audio delight from the combination of computer and rock,
and visual thrill through a giant projection screen behind the
band displaying original animations and images (not a
cliched montage of random pictures but genuine themed
shorts synched up to each song) varying from rocket-like
cigars during the Bill Clinton affair ballad "Presidential

R]
IM
.nd
sy
p.
rCl

Suite" to the Kubrickian images of nuclear explosions while
lead singer Gruff Rhys recites "As our hair turns grey every-
thing is far from a.o.k." in "It's Not the End of the World?"
A set-list dominated by songs off Rings featured enough
tracks from the hard-to-find first three records to satisfy die-
hard enthusiasts and also included several in-the-works new
pieces for two albums that are in concept form only right
now, one instrumental and another standard (if anything SFA
does can be called standard).
Song breaks featured basic "Thunk yous" and song intro-
ductions from the band, which was probably a good thing as
a combination of Shelter (the downstairs
venue) band noise and thick Welsh accents
FURRY made it a little difficult to understand every-
thing said onstage.
4ALS Highlights of the evening definitely includ-
Irews Hall ed overcoming an initially blundered attempt
at "Presidential Suite" with a version that pro-
pt. 18 at duced one of the cleanest, most grooving
numbers of the show and the extensive
hannel "Receptacle for the Respectable," a song in
four parts that grows dark and disturbing with
each transition before culminating with the growling, hard-
core screams of Rhys and a techno finale that echoes as it
shifts from the right speaker to the left, and then back again.
Many publications pigeon-holed the digitally driven Rings
Around the World, as another name on a long list of Radio-
head followers, combining raw rock with electronic beeps,
but that comparison while a flattering one at the least, still
feels disrespectful to a band of such incredible originality.
While the influences of the Beach Boys, David Bowie and
numerous others are evident in every track, it is their rare abil-
ity to combine the styles of such a wide variety of distinctive
artists into a sound that never feels plagiaristic but rather
inspired and beautiful even at its darkest moments.

0

LUKE
SMITH

JEFF
DICKERSON

The music industry's suicide attempt

"We offer millions of patients an opportunity to live a full life. Nothing comes close to
the satisfaction of helping people regain their health."
-Carol Stadler, Director of Product Development
Guidant Corporation is a pioneer of life-saving cardiac and vascular technology. We're
dedicated to giving heart patients around the world another day. Anotheryear. Another
lifetime. We will be on campus for the following:
SWE-TBP Career Fair
September 23
North Campus
Company Presentation:
September 24
1200 EECS
In$arviawe-

Jann Wenner's editorial in Rolling Stone (905)
states that record industry sales have sagged 20
percent in the last two years. Big deal. With their
adamant, yet understandable witch-hunt of music-
sharing websites, record labels are driving away con-
sumers. The anti-digital sentiment stemming from the
musical powers-that-be pathetically displays an indus-
try suffering beneath its greedy weight.
Super-labels Sony and Universal are trying to bridge
the gap between free file sharing and CD purchasing
offering downloadable songs at $.99 a piece. Thanks for
the bone, guys. Ironically, Sony is attempting to meet a
middle ground with the consumer through the songs for
under a dollar, while still marketing their mp3 listening
software. Their fence-sitting practices show a question-
able loyalty to both artists and consumers.
But who said companies should be loyal?
At the core of the slumping record industry is not an
issue of artistic rights and liberties, but instead, an
issue of trust. Record labels believe that students will
simply purchase blank CDs and scrawl album titles on
in black sharpie.
This is not the case. True fans, if the music is good
enough, will purchase a CD for more than just the 11
songs and 40 minutes of music. The people who down-
load the most music tend to be the ones that fork over
the most money to the music industry giants. The
cover art, liner notes and back sleeve are all things

in a single week with 9,205 spins nationwide. Secondly,
and perhaps more important is Lavigne's album (like
countless others) is being sold at heavily discounted
prices (as low as $5.99) in a move by the industry to
sell records. Profit margins on CD sales are already
huge and even at discounted rates, the record compa-
nies are still making a killing on their artists. Especial-
ly first-time artists like Lavigne who will see giant
record sales (Let Go is triple-platinum at press time)
but poor band revenue because first-time acts receive
small portions of their album sales.
These cheapened CD prices, coupled with a great
single result in inflated sales figures, stroking record
companies egos while depriving artists of revenue and
consumers of quality. Labels aren't as hesitant as they
should be to release an album for $18.99 (thanks Bor-
ders!) and the only half-way decent song on the record
is the single.
The record industry gets no sympathy from con-
sumers, and neither do the fat-cat artists who certainly
aren't starving. Perhaps in order to generate some sym-
pathy the record industry should check itself before it
wrecks itself

e a =

-t

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