TV Review: THE 4400/ RHW Q&A

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TV Review: THE 4400

by David Blackwell

Premieres July 11, 2004 from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM ET/PT

Regular one hour episodes at 9 pm ET/PT on Sundays through August 8, 2004

CAST:  Peter Coyote, Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Patrick Flueger, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Laura Allen, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Chad Faust, Brooke Niven, and Conchita Campbell

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS:  Ira Behr, Maira Suro, and Rene Echevarria

PLOT: 4400 people abducted over the course of the last sixty years reappear near Mount Rainer after a mysterious ball of light drops them there. None of them have aged a day since they were abducted and some have special abilities (and no one remembers where they have been). An agency is formed to investigate and monitor the 4400.

ANALYSIS: THE 4400 is very intriguing. It has solid storytelling, compelling characters, and a mystery at the heart of the story along with human drama. The premiere episode effectively shows how returning to earth affects the lives of the 4400 (some have been missing for years). It isn't an easy transition for the lives of the 4400. Some people are even afraid of the missing people who have returned.

What makes everything really believable is the solid acting of the main cast. Conchita Campbell is one of the stand outs as 8 year old Maia.  The chemistry between characters also adds to it including Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie as Agent Tom Baldwin aand Agent Diana Skouris which is like the partnership between Mulder and Scully (of The X-Files). 

The mystery of the 4400 is interesting enough to have me watch the rest of the limited series when it airs. Perhaps there will be more episodes if THE 4400 strikes a chord with viewers.

PRESS KIT DESIGN: Standard folder with 21 pages of info on the show, cast, and crew. The folder has pictures of some of the 4400 (in a bluish tinge) and they looks photos you see in a photo booth or a yearbook. "Over the past 50 years, thousands of people disappeared. This July, they're back." is on the top of the front cover of the folder.

SCREENER TAPE: The screener tape (a Fuji T-90) features the two hour premiere (84 minutes without TV ads). There are some finished effects, temp effects, instructions on what VFX will be there, temp music, temp color, and temp sound. Some of the footage looks like it came off the avid (with the timecode at the bottom). The premiere episode is shown in 1.78:1 widescreen. There is some background noise on the audio tape at times.

(ENTERLINE  3.46)   this review is (c)6-28-2004 David Blackwell and this review cannot be reprinted without permission. send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com  and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia



Robert Hewitt Wolfe is a writer who got his start with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He went on to write many great episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and develop Gene Roddenberry's ANDROMEDA (where he was let go during the middle of production of season 2 due to creative differences).  Since then he has written an episode of UPN's THW TWILIGHT ZONE, and episode of the DEAD ZONE, and he wrote hour five of THE 4400 (where he is also a consulting producer) which premieres with a  two hour episode at 9 pm ET on July 11,2004 and regular episodes run til the conclusion on August 8.

ENTERLINE MEDIA:  Favorite movies

ROBERT HEWITT WOLFE:   Way too many to mention and they change every time someone asks. I'll throw out THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GODFATHER 1 & 2, THE GREAT ESCAPE, CASABLANCA, SPIRITED AWAY, and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL since they're the ones on my favorite list that I've watched the most recently.

EM:    Last DVDs you watched and/or bought

RHW:   Last DVD I watched was MONSTER. Amazing performance.

EM:   Favorite TV shows of all time

RHW:   Ummm, DEEP SPACE NINE? Does that count?

EM:   last good book you read

RHW:    THE CONFUSION by Neal Stephenson

EM:    Movie that deserves a sequel, but it didn't get one.

RHW:    Sequals mostly suck. 

EM:   Book that deserves to be turned into a movie.

RHW:    STARSHIP TROOPERS deserves to be turned into a movie. When are they gonna do that? Oh, nevermind. Okay, barring that, THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS.

EM:    What would happen if you end up in a room with Garak, a talking horse, David Bowie, Ethlie Ann Vare, a Billy idol impersonater, Elvis, a female DS9 fan, and Andromeda's android?

RHW:    Me and the talking horse would watch the Idol impersonator chase Ethlie while she chased Bowie chasing Rommie chasing Elvis chasing the female DS9 fan chasing Garak chasing the Idol impersonator round and round the room until they all turned into butter.

Serious questions:
EM:    What is 4400 about?

RHW:    The 4400 is about 4400 people who've gone missing over the last sixty years who suddenly appear in a ball of light near Mount Ranier. They haven't aged a day and don't remember what happened to them. Are they a miracle? A threat? Tune in and see! Okay, that's my best announcer immitation.

EM:    What is the episode you wrote about (hour five of the series)?

RHW:    Stuff blowing up. Okay, seriously? It's about... stuff blowing up.

EM:   What can one expect of 4400?

RHW:   Tons of surprises, great character stuff, suspense, romance, mystery, and stuff blowing up (that's my part).

EM:   Seriously, what can you tell me?

RHW:    Seriously, it's about how when some people are confronted with things that frighten them, things that they can't understand, their reaction is... to blow stuff up.

EM:   What are your writing habits (how much time you spend each day, time of day to start, and how long,etc.)?

RHW:   I don't have specific times of the day or rituals around my writing. I write when I need to write and I do it until I've finished what I need to finish. There are days I sit down for an hour and write a page or two and there are days I work for twelve hours and do fifteen or twenty pages. I do prefer to write during normal work hours when I can, so I like to start around ten and finish by six, but that's just so I'll have time for a normal life.

EM:   Why do you love BLADE RUNNER?

RHW:    Hmmm, I don't love BLADE RUNNER, actually. I really like BLADE RUNNER and find it fascinating, but I also find it to be a deeply flawed movie. Still, on a visual level, in terms of composition and mise en scene, it's on of the most amazing movies ever made. When I was in film school, I did a deep filmic analysis of BLADE RUNNER for a seminar and there are all kinds of very, very cool things going on in virtually every frame of the movie. So while the film has some storytelling issues, the visuals are just jawdropping.

EM:    mise en scene?
RHW:   "Mise en scene" means the elements of filmmaking that compose the visual images... the costumes, set dressing, make-up, composition, lighting, props, etc. From the French for roughly "stuff in the scene."


EM:   What storytelling issues does BLADE RUNNER have? Would it be better to do a new adaptation closer to the novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"? By the way, did you ever read FUTURE NOIR: THE MAKING OF BLADE RUNNER by Paul M. Sammon?

RHW:    I'm speaking of the original, theatrical release here. Basically, I think the voice over is pretty terrible, but also necessary for certain expositional elements the film otherwise lacks. The performances are hit and miss. The ending is a muddle. I think that some of the themes could have been better articulated. I don't think it would've been better if closer to the novel, necessarily, but I don't think it has all the elements that truely qualify it as a GREAT film. It does have an amazing look though, maybe the best and most influential and most original look of any film ever made. And Roy Batty's death scene is one of the best scenes ever captured on film.

And no, I didn't read the Making Of book.

Hope you liked the opening 2 hrs.