Category Archives: unusually gifted people

“Kyle XY” on ABC Family (2006-2009) presented a likable teen who may have been artificially created

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Kyle XY” was another series, this one on ABC Family, which played out the “gifted teen” concept.

The hero is played by Matt Dallas.  As the series begins, he wakes up in a part naked (but not imagined), covered with goo and with no bellybutton in a park outside Seattle.

He is taken to a juvenile detention center but then taken in to foster care by a psychologist, Nicole Trager (Marguerite MacIntyre) and her husband Stephen and gregarious teen son Josh (Jean Luc Bolideau).  He might be viewed as autistic, but he quickly learns language and social function, and toward the end of season 1 (which started in 2006) he is viewed as academically gifted and also an artist, and can help Josh and other teens with homework. He also has superior senses and athletic abilities.

Soon, it is apparent that he has to be protected from the people or company that seems to have created him.  Is he an example of “artificial life”?  Was he made outside the womb?  What are the implications of his existence?  Nevertheless, he is strong,  likeable and sometimes protective of others, in a way that reminds one of Clark Kent in Smallville.

The series was canceled after the third season in March 2009.  I will try to get the DVD that explains what the future plans for the series were and not them here.   The video that follows is a beginning of this effort.

 

NBC’s “The Event”: in my view, one of the best recent sci-fi series, but you had to watch it all, in sequence

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One of my favorite television series has been NBC’s “The Event”, which ran for 22 episodes from September 2010 to May 2011.

The premise of the show is rather Roswell-like.  It supposes that during WWII, an  extraterrestrial spacecraft crashed in Alaska, and the government held most of the aliens.  But the aliens look almost exactly like humans, even with the same approximate race variations, and those who escaped assimilated into the population, one winding up heading the CIA. The one difference is the Methuselah syndrome, meaning that the aliens age very slowly.

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Another element of the plot is that a president Martinez (Blair Underwood, aka Obama) wants to release them on human rights grounds, and that leads to an assassination plot in the first episode, which the aliens foil with radical technology, taking the people on an aircraft through a portal.

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For me, the lead character was Sean Walker, played by Jason Ritter, a computer games designer who becomes involved when his fiancée disappears in the first episode.  Sean is extremely charismatic and has a “Clark Kent personality”, and has abilities that verge on being powers.  Toward the end of the series the audience begins to believe that Sean is himself an alien, or perhaps was conceived by an alien and normal person.  As Sean realizes he is partially “one of them”, he is faced with a real existential test of his loyalties.  The aliens seem to lack our full moral compass, but Seam does understand it and (like Clark Kent) tries to live by it.  A clue is that about six or seven years in flashbacks have passed, and even Sean notices that he still has the body of an 18 year old. That would be a blessing.

The series varies from other series of this type (like “Smallville”) in that the episodes are much more interconnected;  one must watch every episode to follow the story, which may have cut down on ratings eventually.  And some of the story is told in detailed flashbacks.

Another interesting character was Sofia, played by Laura Innes, and she can become quite chilling.  An interesting fact is that she was originally conceived as a male character.  So making her female required some flexibility among the writers, something I am never willing to do in my own fiction (and this may become a critical discussion point in later posts).

The last few episodes telescope, leading to a denouement where the aliens bring their dying planet close to earth – a kind of “Krypton” or “Earth II” that has been scorched to desert by it’s expanding sun, which is threatening to become a supernova.  If so, it would need to be a at least a few hundred light years away or else the radiation from it (the gamma rays) could eventually destroy life on Earth, too.  Only  “Type I” civilization could master black holes or portals and traverse an entire galaxy.

The NBC link is here.  NBC considered spinning off a sequel series and I’m not sure what became of that, link.

It would have been interesting to wonder what a second season could have brought.

 

 

The unfinished documentary “American Lynching” by Gode Davis; also, controversial films on abortion

lynch4On New Year’s Day, January 1, 2003, a Wednesday, while I was staying with my mother in Arlington over the holidays (I was still living in the Churchill in Minneapolis) I drove my rented car to West Warwick, RI (very near Providence) to visit filmmaker Gode Davis, who is since deceased.  It was a mild day, with rain and fog but no snow on the way up (but wind-driven flurries all the next day as I came back).

We met first for dinner in a Friday’s restaurant, and he said immediately, he could tell from my artificial body language that I, like him, have at least mild Asperger’s syndrome.  We had spoken on the phone numerous times.  He had said he had been an Army officer, had been married and was also bisexual and was very concerned about “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

Then we retreated to his modest Cape Cod home on St. George St., and watched all the footage of his documentary “American Lynching”.  I think about 40 minutes of interviews and various narratives had been assembled.  I actually spent the night before driving back.

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In June 2005, he came to Washington to tape some interviews at the Capitol about a Senate resolution to apologize for the government’s not doing more about the past wrongs associated with lynchings since the Civil War.  Senator George Allen (VA), Mary Landrieu (LA) and victim James Cameron were interviewed.  Gode took a lot of footage, and I took my own footage of some of the same material.

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My own footage:

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To play these in Windows, click once, and then click when the box appears on your screen,  These were taken with an older Sony Camcorder.

Gode had called to ask if he could stay at my home, but at the time my mother was in charge (as I was looking after her) and I could not return the favor.  That is an idea that I ought to be able to address now.

In fact, there are several sites in Alexandria, VA where lynchings occurred in the late 19th Century, such as this

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this

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and this.

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The estate has a website “americanlyncing.com” which right now Google warns as possibly being hacked. It comes up cleanly in Firefox with Webroot Secure Anywhere in a Windows 8 environment, so I am having Webroot check on the reason for Google’s warning (link)  Note: Webroot’s initial reply is that it did not find anything wrong with the site.

Gode’s one YouTube video, from 2006, about ten minutes, also appears on my Blogger Movie Reviews blog, Dec. 24, 2013, but I’ll re-present it here for convenience.

The logical next step is to contact the estate and see what is being done with the materials and if some sort of effort can be assembled to fund and finish the rest of the project.

In February 2003 there was a fire at the Station Disco in West Warwick, RI.  David did become involved in a city’s investigation of the disaster.

There’s another controversial film around, “South Dakota” (no relation to “Nebraska”) by Bruce Isaacson, a long drama about two young women dealing with abortion. The production company is Lionheart, and it is very difficult to find out any information in when it will show up. I would wonder if the controversy of the film’s subject matter is provoking concerns.   I have reviewed both “Lake of Fire” and “After Tiller” on my Movies blog (look for the “Right to Life” label).

Update: March 9, 2015

A disturbing incident with a University of Oklahoma fraternity, now closed down with students likely to be expelled, shows the problem is still with us, CNN story here.   The expulsion letter published by ABC on Facebook is quite graphic, here.

 Update: March 15, 2015

I have had some occasional discussions with the estate about my past contact with Gode.  I can’t report details now, but I believe that there will be more news in the reasonably near future.

Update: April 2, 2015

There are reports of a noose incident on the Duke University campus in North Carolina, story on Jezebel here.

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Update: August 15, 2015

I recently visited the executor of Gode’s estate in Rhode Island.  More details will be available in the reasonably near future, I hope.  It is apparent that the focus of Gode’s work was “extra legal violence” that has neighborhood or peer social approval, and isn’t limited just to race.

 

“Everwood” was an important WB series about a possible teen piano prodigy, and a doctor who doesn’t need to charge

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The WB (and CWTV) ran several  series that interested me ten years ago, and another one for me to review is “Everwood”, which started in the fall of 2002 and ran for four seasons (ending in the spring of 2006).  Sometimes reruns appear on ABC Family.  The series was created by Greg Berlanti (also, “Jack & Bobby” and “The Tomorrow People”, to be discussed later, with the latter of these dealing with teens with “powers”, and reminds me of NBC’s “Heroes”).

The premise is that a successful NYC neurosurgeon Andy Brown (Treat Williams) loses his wife to a tragic auto accident in an ice storm.  He moves himself and his two kids to the town of Everwood, CO, deep within the Rockies. He sets up a general practice and doesn’t even charge (believe that in these days of Obamacare), which draws the ire of the competing doctor Abbott (Tom Amandes).

Brown has two gifted children, a younger daughter Delia (Vivienne Cardone), and her older brother Ephram (Gregory Smith), who is supposed to be turning about 15 when the series starts.  The family is Jewish but secular, but Ephram has already bad a bar mitzvah. Brown’s moral values are typical for his background, a kind of careful individualism, unsettled when right and wrong are not as clean cut as they should be.

Ephram’s gift is piano, and the potential to become a concert pianist.  Much of the plot of the series revolves around Ephram’s progress toward getting into Julliard.  In one episode, he has “learned” the entire Beethoven Appassionata Sonata overnight. Ephram tends to be moody, but clever, and has a faceted personality.

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When he is about 16, Ephram has a fling with a 20 year old college student named Madison.  He is naïve, and has his first experience, in a scene quite well done.  Madison gets pregnant.  Andy decides to keep her pregnancy a secret from Ephram, a soap-opera-like idea that can set up a final confrontation when Ephram approaches the Julliard audition.

Eprham writes a high school essay called “My Greatest Flaw” which is “my inability to change”.  Does this mean that there is a moral imperative to grow into someone that can support a future bigger than the self?  You hope “that you’ll never have to change again.”


There are several other compelling subplots.  One of these happens in season 1 when Abbott’s son Bright (Chris Pratt, later to appear in “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Moneyball”, “Her”) has an auto accident with another teen, Colin (Mike Erwin) in the car sustaining a head injury.  At first, Colin seems to recover OK, but then Andy discovers that Colin has a hematoma or aneurysm that must be removed or it will eventually rupture. Colin agrees to the surgery.  But he dies at the end of Season 1 when the risky operation fails, and the entire town ostracizes Andy for his playing “Ben Casey”.

There is another subplot where a female doctor patient has HIV acquired from treating a patient in Africa, and tells Delia.  Others find out from Delia, and soon her own practice is destroyed by fearful patients, and her gay ex-husband tries to get custody of her kids. Through complications, Dr. Abbott winds up being threatened with loss of his malpractice insurance.

Later in the series there is an extraverted Dr. Jake Hartman (Scott Wolf), a skiing enthusiast.

The series always started each episode with some music that sounded like the slow movement of a late 19th century piano concerto, but what one?  The music may have come from Eugen d’Albert’s first piano concerto, written at age 18 or so, and inspired by Liszt, and filled with many familiar themes for such an obscure work.  Hollywood knows obscure romantic music well. Maybe the work should be called “The Everwood”.

Toward the end, after Ephram has given up Julliard and has to work playing piano at clubs to support his child, and also gives piano lessons (at 18), he takes on a gay teen pupil, Kyle, (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the famous actor.  Had the series continued, probably Kyle would have become the important character with a professional career.

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In August 2005, I drove (from DC) to a “party” at King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia, where I met Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt.  Smith, now 30, stars in “Rookie Blue” and has directed two episodes, and has also produced a comedy “Wieners” for Screen Gems, and, in a change of style, a documentary about doomsday preppers, “Training for the Apocalypse”.

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Maybe the best outcome for this series would be a sequel movie based on the characters.  What has happened to Ephram, now in his mid 20s?  Has Kyle’s career taken off?  Or did Ephram somehow go to another music conservatory?  Yale would be interesting.  Maybe a movie, maybe a cable or web series.  Warner Brothers no longer has a separate brand for independent film (this would have been a logical release from “Warner Independent Pictures”, a brand that the company should bring back).

There is a newer series on CWTV, “Hart of Dixie” (2011- ), created by Lelia Gerstein.  about another transplanted (to Alabama) doctor (a woman, Zoe Hart, played by Rachel Bilson) that seemed rather underwhelming.

 

“Jake 2.0” gave us another young adult superman character, and the show was allowed to die

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Jake 2.0” provided some competition to “Smallville” in the fall of 2003, on the overlooked UPN channel.  But it apparently aired only the first twelve episodes in most markets, I believe; four more were aired in the UK, and the last three were never completed, after CBS/UPN canceled the show, because of ratings. David Greenwalt had been the executive producer.

Christopher Gorham, 29 when the series was filmed, played Jake, a computer technician at the NSA (National Security Agency) who gets “infected” with nanomites accidentally after a minor wound resulting from a shootout with a saboteur.

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Jake soon has super-strengths of the Clark Kent variety, including being able to run and jump great distances, and heal quickly.  Most of all, he can affect the contents of computer files with technotelepathy, his mind, which would be a dangerous capability. (Indeed, “let the hacking begin.”)  The idea somewhat foreshadows a similar idea in J J Abrams in “Revolution” today (to be discussed later).

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Jake is also concerned about morality, and the proper use of power, an idea that comes up in a conference scene in a late episode, and that would certainly fit the controversy over the NSA today.

There are episodes including stopping EMP attacks (before the idea was widely discussed) and dirty bombs.  There was a humorous episode with a paintball maneuver.  In one episode, Jake rescues his immature younger brother, and talks about “loyalty to blood”.

In the episodes that didn’t get aired, Jake had become a target of the NSA.

UPN (CBS) apparently didn’t even try to air all the episodes that had been filmed, replacing it with the silly “America’s Top Model” in January 2004.

I think the series would have done better if aired on a more visible network, and not in competition with “The West Wing.”


The series was filmed in Vancouver, but the Washington DC backdrops were put in seamlessly.

“Smallville”: Superman was once a teenager himself; recalling the 10-year television series

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The science-fiction television drama “Smallville” premiered on “TheWB” (eventually to become CWTV) on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2001, about five weeks after 9/11.  The Pilot must have been filmed weeks before, that summer, in British Columbia, but the scene of meteors crashing into the town of Smallville, KS may have seemed terrifying then.

That sequence had been preceded by a brief prologue, introducing the loving couple (John Schneider and Annette O’Toole), the Kents, who would find baby Clark in a corn field and take him home and raise him as their own (a godsend, since Martha couldn’t have children).  In that prologue we saw a boy Lex Luthor made bald for the rest of his life by the meteor exposure – a play on radiation fallout (or dirty bomb) fears?


Fifteen minutes into the Pilot, we’re shown a handsome teenage Clark, played by a youthful enough Tom Welling (then 24), gently arguing with his dad about not being allowed to play football because he could hurt other people.  Tall and strong but lean and lanky, he actually looks more like a future baseball 100-mph fastball pitcher than a lineman or quarterback.  He a freshman at Smallville High, apparently in ninth grade, and his legal records show him to be 14.  He is tall and physically strong for his age, but very socially awkward.  He is morally sensitive.  He wonders if he is special or just different. No one can explain his unusual strength (although that does exist in nature, genetically, in some young men), or ability to heal, or “speed” – ability to teleport himself by altering space-time.  Later, he will develop x-ray vision, which would allow him to scope people, and then heat vision, which could allow him to set things on fire telepathically (like Zak in “Revolution”).  His father, upon questioning, finally tells Clark that he is an alien, and shows him the spaceship in the barn.  It is quite a touching scene.  Clark “speeds off”, upset, after saying “You should have told me.”  Soon, he is somehow “disabled” and hazed in a notorious scarecrow scene (which some people see as an allusion to Matthew Shepherd), with the “S” painted on his smooth chest.

So this is to be the story of how the future Superman came of age, as a teenager.  The series would run for ten years.  But after the first three seasons, it seemed to lose focus and become more episodic.  But the earlier years will filled with suspense.  Season 1 ends with a tornado.  In the middle of Season 2, Clark meets Dr. Virgil Swann, played by Christopher Reeve, now a quadriplegic from his own 1995 horsemanship accident, trying to decipher his origin from hieroglyphics.  As his father Jor El and other forces from his home planet Krypton chase him, Clark faces a crisis at the end of Season 2.  He fears his end is coming, and in one scene the “S” is burned into his chest as a scar (although it seems to be reversible).  At the very end, Clark takes a motorcycle to Metropolis (usually shown by Vancouver, but in this episode the skyline of Kansas City MO was used), having invited Lana to come with him. The seasons ends with dramatic music (I think by Tchaikowsjy) as Clark rides to the city.

Clark usually has a moral compass that would make any parent proud, except when he is exposed to red kryptonite, which unmasks all inhibition and turns his usual kindness into a curious moral nihilism.  He can be brought back by green kryptonite, which can cause him to lose all his powers.  In fact, in another episode, he learns it is better to be “different” and have powers than be like everyone else.  (Like it is better to marry than to burn?)  In season 3, he starts working for the Metropolis Mafia (that is, Kansas City MO or Vancouver BC, interchangeably) and robs some ATM’s (which in more recent years has become a real crime problem), but then gets his moral compass back and returns home.  At the end of Season 3, it seems as though he has to go back “Home” – to the Phantom Zone – for the summer.

I was living in Minneapolis when the series started, and had been laid off at the end of 2001, and was about to start my “second life”.  Somehow, I saw a rerun of the Pilot over Christmas that year, I think while “home” in Arlington visiting mother.  I became intrigued with the series.  I remember seeing the finale of Season 2 the day before a successful job interview, still in Minnesota then.  But I also remember watching it in May 2002 in a motel on a trip to talk about my own book and movie possibilities. Smallville became a fixture.

Logically, Clark should have entered college in Season 5, and that would have been a better track than the episodic plot that followed.  Starting in 2004, Smallville had moved to Wednesday nights, at 8 PM ET, and I typically looked forward to watching it regularly in the middle of the 00 decade anyway, despite a weakening plot.  Instead of college, Clark actually works for a professor Fine for a while, on his way to eventually becoming a journalist.  Lois enters the plot during these years (having found him and “imagined him naked” at the start of Season 4 when he is back from the summer “abroad”).

Other devices from the comics come into the series, such as the Fortress of Solitude.  Other kinds of kryptonite get mentioned, such as black, which gives Lex powers.  There are all kinds of episodes with bizarre experiments, such as trading bodies.  Other interesting characters are offered, such as Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley, after a body shave relative to the soap “Passions”), reporter Jimmy Olson (Aaron Ashmore), whose cognitive abilities as a mere human can match Clark’s, and another teenager who can fly played by Richard Harmon (who would later star in “Judas Kiss”).

TheWB and later CWTV had impressive websites, with video and discussion boards, for the show, which in the early years added to suspenseful speculation as to where the plot would go.

There were some “revelation” scenes toward the end of the series that were a bit homoerotic, but homosexuality as an issue was rarely mentioned.  However, in one episode, when Clark did get to play football (and perhaps catch his own forward pass) he came to the defense of a gay classmate.  The issue probably would have been covered more had the series aired only two or three years later in span. Nevertheless, the parallel between Clark’s being “open” about his extraterrestrial origin (despite appealing human appearance) and openness about sexual orientation would be obvious, and the series ended while the final steps in the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were being certified.  I think the show made a difference even in that debate.

Technically, the series was always broadcast in HD, and tended to use garish colors, lots of comic-book bright oranges and reds, which must have been achieved by manipulation of film stock.

Some individual episodes have some silly premises, such as when Clark and Lex exchange bodies.  A few show flashbacks, such as when Jor-El visits Smallville in 1961, and a marque for “Splendor in the Grass”, one of my favorite classic films, shows.

Created by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, the series was produced by Tollin, Robins Productions, which went on to produce the less successful “One Tree Hill“.

I have a detailed writeup on my “doaskdotell site” here.   The Blogger chain can be accessed from this link.

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I went to graduate school at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, getting my M.A. in Mathematics in early 1968, and I always equated Smallville to Lawrence, which really does look like Smallville in the show.

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I ask, does a real teen Clark Kent, who can teleport himself instantly, exist on Earth?  Maybe.  If so, I hope he goes to college.

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