The problem with being a self-proclaimed television addict is that people… well, they expect you to know stuff. For example, they assume that if I’m about to give them the dirt on TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, I am well-versed in the necessary lingo and terminology, allowing me to wax philosophically upon the difference between a T1000 and a T800 model of the killer creations running amok in the movies upon which the series is based.
But in the name of full disclosure, I think it only fair that I admit to being unable to tell a T1000 from my toaster. Although I’m pretty sure my toaster couldn’t hold a gun to my head and declare “Hasta la vista, baby!”
Hope not, anyway.
That said, I don’t need a PhD in everything ‘Arnold’ to know a good series when I see one, and from the first action-packed minutes of the pilot, Sarah, her son John and those cybernetic nightmares with big guns and bad attitudes had me gripped. And by the end of the episode, I was saying what FOX obviously hopes will be the mantra of millions: Give me more!
Which is my way of letting cynics out there know that they can rest easy: This isn’t the network’s way of trying to milk a franchise that some say should have been — forgive the pun — terminated after the second flick. (Continuing with our aforementioned theme of full disclosure, I’ll cop to being one of the few people on this planet who kinda-sorta liked the third flick and, more importantly, will say so in public.) No, this series does what any good spin-off should (in fact, in my mind, must) do: Serve as a vehicle which will prove entertaining to fans of the films upon which it is based and yet stand on its own and, as a result, be easily accessible to those who don’t know about the extremely heavy baggage that Sarah and her son lug with them from place to place.
Developed for television by Josh Friedman, the show’s pilot offers up everything you’d expect from a TERMINATOR re-boot. Actress Lena Headey injects such strength into Sarah that she lives up to her billing as “the mother of all destiny”. Fans will stand up and cheer [and did at Comic Con] when Summer Glau utters the memorable line, “Come with me if you want to live.” And Thomas Dekker fits in nicely as John Conner, the young man destined to lead the fight for earth’s future… if he can survive long enough to have one himself.
That said, where things really start to get interesting is with episode 2. Using the pilot’s surprising final moments as a launching pad — Friedman and Co. have cleverly devised a plan to ensure that TERMINATOR: TSCC doesn’t become your standard episode of the FUGITIVE, with Sarah, John and Cameron running for their lives from the dreaded Terminator-of-the-week. (A problem that REAPER and SMALLVILLE fans know all to well)
This being the Sarah Connor Chronicles, with emphasis on the chronicles, we quickly learn that Sarah has a mission. One that will presumably take her a season or two… or three or four if the network gets lucky.
And while I’m not about to spoil what that mission entails, suffice it to say that fans will be delighted to know that TSCC has far more in common with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA than BIONIC WOMAN (including a haunting Bear McCready score). This TV Addict was glued to the edge of my seat for both episodes, quite literally jumping back after witnessing one particularly shocking moment between Sarah, Cameron and a very unfortunate acquaintance.
If there’s one thing that concerns me, it’s that the writers take great care in the development of their teen hero, John Connor. Just as with their real-life counterparts, TV teens are a breed unto themselves who must be corralled so as not to give into their baser instincts. For TV kids, this means not letting them become, for lack of a better phrase, what my grandma would have called “bigger than their britches.” Genre fans will remember that at a certain point, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s Wesley Crusher just became… well, a very annoying know-it-all. In the case of John Connor, we’ll need to see that he has what it takes to be a future leader without getting the sense that he’s developing a “been there, done that” attitude. He’s a kid who has seen a lot, but who, at the same time, needs to retain a sense of “holy crap” about him in order for viewers to easily see themselves in his position.
But at this point, that’s nitpicking of the highest order. What FOX has on tap for those who tune in – whether they’re fans of the source material or not – is a thrill-ride of a series sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. In fact, folks looking for their adrenaline fix while waiting for Jack Bauer and company to return from their writers-strike-imposed leave should find this fits the bill nicely.