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Monthly Archives: January 2011

“There are rumors of a conspiracy called the Global Frequency.”

“A group of spies, experts, and ordinary people…”

“They save us from threats that no one else sees or understands.”

“The Global Frequency is real.”

Global Frequency.  It sounds like an urban legend, a fairy tale.  Who’d believe there was some type of shadowy, secret organization that acts all around us, yet is never really there?  Yes, you might describe the unknown and mysterious group portrayed onscreen this way, but the amazing thing is, you could also describe the show itself in very similar terms….

Miranda Zero, leader of the Global Frequency

Global Frequency told of an “independent, covert intelligence group” put together by the enigmatic Miranda Zero (Michelle Forbes).  She has identified the world’s greatest minds, experts in every possible field, and given each a special phone equipped with scanning abilities, sensors, and all sorts of wonderful extras.  None of these agents know any of the others, so their organization is both hidden and widespread.  The only thing each of them understands is that someday, sometime, that phone might ring… and hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people’s lives will depend on what they do next.

Coordinating all these experts is Aleph (Aimee Garcia), a multi-lingual tech expert who’s masterful at gathering and analyzing information among these specialists from the hidden and secret Global Frequency “control center”.  From there, she and Miranda examine all the unusual happenings in the world and, with the help of the individuals in their network, stop problems before they spiral out of control.

“If you even knew just how many ultra-secret nightmares the government was covering up you would never sleep again… just curled up under your bed, weeping and waiting for the inevitable hellish apocalypse.”
–Aleph, knowing just how to reassure someone in her own particular way

The problem in the pilot is a big one, as discovered by Sean Flynn (Josh Hopkins).  Sean is a former Boston cop, now in San Francisco hoping to make a fresh start, when he discovers a half-dead man in an alley.  Actually, the man is completely dead — there is literally only half of him left to find!  The entire right side of the man’s body is gone, as if that part of him had been caught in an explosion and the rest of his corpse was unharmed.  Oh, and poor Mr. Dead Guy is holding a phone in his (remaining) hand, which starts ringing — it seems before his untimely death he was part of the Global Frequency.  Answering it, Sean finds himself caught up in an organization he’s only heard of as a phantom group, almost only as rumor… until you’re part of it.

Dr. Katrina Finch (Jenni Baird) has a phone that rings as well.  She also has six separate doctorates and the smarts about particle physics to probably recreate the big bang… with enough left over to tell you how to make it bigger next time.  Dr. Finch gets to team up with Flynn, since she’s the resident expert who might be able to figure out what happened to the poor guy Flynn’s found… and how to stop it from happening to about three million people in the next hour.  With a little help from the Global Frequency’s people network of knowledge and skills, Flynn and Finch together might actually be able to save them all… if they don’t die in the process first.

“Everybody knows the agencies that are supposed to protect us never talk to each other.  So, some of the best, scariest intelligence agents solved the problem.  Now, they spy on the spies.  They get all the pieces, they put them together, and they stop whatever’s coming — whatever the cost.  (…)  Miranda knew that with all the secret horrors out there no one group could solve every problem.  So, if you are the best at what you do, no matter how strange or obscure or mundane, one day Miranda Zero appears on your door and hands you the phone.  That means that what you do will save lives.  You are needed.  I’m needed.  You never know who’s on the Global Frequency.”
–Dr. Katrina Finch, explaining the Global Frequency to Flynn

Based on the graphic novel series of the same name written by Warren Ellis, Global Frequency was a rare combination of dark and uplifting at once.  The situations were threatening, the characters were far from being typical heroes, and governments and other large groups were portrayed as seldom having people’s best interests at heart.

You are now on the Global Frequency....

But the solution to these threats was found in the best of each and every individual — the belief that, when asked, each person could (and would) do extraordinary things for all.  No one knew when that phone call might come, but they were all well aware of the stakes when it did.  The goodness and strength of human nature would show itself in spite of organizations and governments that might oppose them.  Ordinary people could change the world….

The series’ format was designed so each week would see our regular characters, but they would interact with other members of the group brought in for special skills and intelligence needed in that episode.  Some of them might appear in multiple episodes, but any of them could be “killed off” at any time, hopefully creating unpredictable drama and loss along the way.  Even the regulars would not be immune to this, and Executive Producer/Writer John Rogers (Leverage) has stated that at least one of the original characters wouldn’t last past episode thirteen….

It’s too bad the show never got to episode two.

“The only time I ever read a comic and said, ‘Jesus, that should be on the screen’, I found out that somebody else was already developing it, and it was Global Frequency.  It should be a TV show.  I adore it.”
–Joss Whedon, producer of television’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse

Global Frequency Issue #1

The Global Frequency organization was portrayed on the show as practically an urban legend.  It was one of those things that everyone had heard of, but no one really thought existed.  That mysterious status has stretched to the existence of the series itself, thanks to the odd and unusual history of the project.  A pilot for The WB network in 2005, it looked like a sure cinch for a 13 episode mid-season order.  Global Frequency had the kind of buzz that would make it one of the best shows that year.  (Of course, it would have helped tremendously if it had actually AIRED….)

The pilot episode was received with great enthusiasm by the WB network and the studio.  A writing staff was assembled (reportedly many of the writers from the series Angel which had recently finished its run) and more production staff were gathered (including J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame as showrunner).

Then there was a change in regimes at the head of the network.  Suddenly, those who had championed the series at the executive level were no longer in power, and the plug was pulled on Global Frequency.  There would be no series.  The show itself almost never existed as far as the public was concerned.  And no one would ever see what had been created….

But a rather odd thing happened, very similar to the show concept of “ordinary people connected to change the world”.  Someone (to this day it is unknown exactly who) leaked a copy of the pilot episode onto the internet, where it was discovered by fans who absolutely LOVED it.

We do what we must do

Word traveled (quietly but quickly) through the well-connected internet about this terrific show that The WB had passed on.  (You’d swear they all had special phones or something!)  More and more people found the pilot through various means (not necessarily legal ones).  A movement to get the show on the air started, big enough that media outlets around the world covered the “leak” and subsequent commotion.

Like the covert group shown on television, it was ordinary people sharing their passion through unregulated connections, unfettered by a large organization (such as the WB network) that hadn’t allowed something as good as Global Frequency to prosper.  And although there was never any series aired or any more episodes filmed, the idea was still there.  The underground sharing system of the pilot (and the enthusiasm generated in its fans) has continued to this day, as hidden as if Miranda Zero herself had organized it all.

MICHELLE FORBES (Miranda Zero) bears a striking resemblance to the original comic incarnation of Miranda Zero.  Many previous roles gave her significant notoriety (and geek credibility), having had memorable roles in Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Battlestar: Galactica (2004), and True Blood as well as voice work in the Half-Life series of video games.  Mainstream work includes Homicide:  Life on the Street, 24, Prison Break, and In Treatment.  She learned sign language in only a week for her role in the British TV-movie series Messiah.

AIMEE GARCIA (Aleph) has been a regular in many series.  Starting as a teen, she was seen in American Family, Greetings From Tuscon, All About the Andersons, and George Lopez.  Most recently she was part of the NBC series Trauma, and will be seen shortly as a regular in ABC’s Off the Map.

JOSH HOPKINS (Sean Flynn) should be more of a household name, considering he’s been a regular/recurring player in no less than 11 different series since 1998.  New York:  Undercover, Ally McBeal, Cold Case, Swingtown, Private Practice, and Cougar Town have all benefited from his continued presence.  He’s also an accomplished musician, appearing (among other places) at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in 2007.

JENNI BAIRD (Dr. Katrina Finch) was born and raised in Australia.  Her career there was highlighted by a starring role in the medical drama All Saints, giving her the impetus to come and try her hand in Hollywood.  She immediately landed the Global Frequency pilot, but after that didn’t go to series she found a regular role in the fourth season of USA’s The 4400.

“What’s Global Frequency?  Well, imagine The X-Files has world-class sex with Alias, and produces a mutant offspring with a taste for crank that lives 20 minutes in the future…”
–Chuck Lawson, writing with enthusiasm about Global Frequency

For a show that “doesn’t exist” there’s a surprising amount of material available, including (of course) the original graphic novels upon which Global Frequency is based.  Both TV writer/producer John Rogers and original creator Warren Ellis have written about their experiences bringing the show to life and the strange journey it has taken since.  There’s also a terrific fan location, FrequencySite.com, featuring some pictures and information on this particular incarnation (including the excellent cast photo found below).  While I can’t really encourage anything like illegal downloading and such, I would hope that all fans of great TV could find a way to see this someday.  In the meantime, here’s a YouTube clip featuring about 7 minutes of the best of the pilot, taken from various scenes (and not giving away the ending, fortunately).  UPDATE:  Some unknown person has uploaded THE ENTIRE PILOT EPISODE to YouTube.  Check it out while it lasts!

The best show no one ever got the chance to see

Ahh, what might have been….  Global Frequency is one of those shows that was snatched away from viewers despite its promise and possibilities.  These are the types of productions that all of us at home are normally never aware of.  But thanks to the “leaking” of the pilot and the massive impact of the internet, those who wish to can find and enjoy its potential.  And the urban legend might yet continue, since as recently as about a year ago The CW (successor to The WB) expressed interest in a possible revival of the concept, and a new script was being developed for the project.  Global Frequency, as quietly as ever, still lives on….

Although it won’t be exactly the same, you really never know.  The existing conspiracy of viewers can only hope whatever people might come together to resurrect the series are like those whom Miranda Zero has made part of the fictional Global Frequency — the best at what they do, no matter how unusual or mundane.  Together they can all create even more possibilities for thought-provoking adventure, excitement, and a reminder that each of us still has the ability to change the world.  Although none of us can yet see what may be coming, Global Frequency is still out there, somewhere….

It’s not an urban legend… we’re all just waiting on the phone call.

Vital Stats

It really does no good to do stats on a series that doesn’t “officially” exist.  One episode is out there, unfortunately unaired.  I would hope you get the chance to see it sometime.  It’s one of the few shows I’ve found that’s worth whatever efforts you have to make to see it.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

–Tim R.

Coming this week is something so obscure, it’s practically an urban legend (as are the characters portrayed onscreen).  If you still come up empty after reading this week’s clues, know this:  Zero is excellent.  If you’re the best at what you do, no matter how strange or obscure or mundane… you’re needed here.

I hope my description is intriguing enough to make you want to come read about it.  Five quotes:

“They save us from threats no one else sees or understands.”

…and hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people’s lives might depend on what they do next.

“So, some of the best, scariest intelligence agents solved the problem.  Now, they spy on the spies.”

That mysterious status has stretched to the existence of the series itself…

“Well, imagine The X-Files has world-class sex with Alias…”

And it’s just half a decade old.  If all that has you curious, you don’t have to wait by the phone.  Just be back here Friday @ 8/7 Central!

–Tim R.

“If things get weird, or weirder, or strange, or just if you’re not sure what’s going on, just… you just call me, all right?”
–Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files

Weird, weirder, and strange are exactly what Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden deals with best.  (Yes, that’s his full name.)  If things aren’t quite what they seem, then he’s the one with the magic touch to figure them out.  And when I say magic, I mean Grade-A sorcerer-type spells and magick that could put Harry Potter to shame.  Because Harry Dresden is the only Wizard in the Chicago phone book.

Based on a series of novels by author Jim Butcher, The Dresden Files was a 2007 Sci-Fi Channel series relating the adventures (both magical and mysterious) of Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne).  A private detective by trade, he’s blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the ability to do magic in our ordinary world.  And he’s not the only one….

Harry is assisted by Bob (Terrance Mann), a ghost who walks through walls, can’t interact with anything physically, and whose essence lives inside a skull that Harry keeps.  Bob is well-versed in the knowledge of arcane magic, but has to rely on Harry to actually create and perform the actual spells and such (due to his inability to manipulate things physically).  Although rather snarky (and who wouldn’t be after hundreds of years stuck in a skull), Bob is a source of information and insight to Harry, which comes in handy when dealing with the aforementioned “weird” happenings all around him.

Harry also has to deal with the magic hierarchy, personified by Morgan (Conrad Coates).  Morgan is a Warden of the High Council, who is the enforcer of rules for those who have magical ability.  Since Harry often has to deal with rather negative elements in his investigations, he and Morgan often clash on methods, but they also have a grudging respect for one another, and are as likely to be on the same side in a fight as they are in opposition.

The skeptical Lt. Murphy

All this magical stuff is a bunch of hogwash for Chicago Police Lt. Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz), but she knows Dresden is good in a pinch, especially during some of her stranger cases.  She’s trained to find evidence, not believe in hocus pocus, and she’s very good at her job… and although (like Morgan) she can sometimes be antagonistic to Harry while trying to do that job, she sees him as an ally and a friend.  But she doesn’t see magic, and Harry tries to keep it that way… with limited success.

“You have all of this fantasy element coupled with these really real people, so it almost makes it more believable.  You don’t feel like it’s a fantasy, you feel like this is really stuff that could be happening.”
–Valerie Cruz

The Dresden Files is really a detective show masquerading as a SF/Fantasy series.  Whereas most private eyes would deal with missing persons and cheating spouses, Dresden gets to deal with bringing an already dead murderer to justice and spectral dragons invading his combination home/office.  Harry is a reluctant hero, with darkness in his own past, and he just wants to get through most days with as little hassle as possible… but he also wants to do the right thing for those who can’t help themselves, especially when he’s the one with the “power”, quite literally, to do so.  But again, it’s a power that Harry has to keep hidden from “ordinary” people (like Murphy), thanks to the edicts of the High Council.

Of course, magic has always been about creating something that isn’t necessarily real to the rest of the world.  Sort of like television, really.  And the magic of television is ever-present in the making of The Dresden Files.

“The show is not the books. It is not meant to follow the same story. It is meant as an alternate world, where the overall background and story-world is similar, but not all the same things happen. The show is not attempting to recreate the books on a chapter-by-chapter or even story-by-story basis.”
–Jim Butcher, author of the books on which the series is based.

“As much as I love demonic monkeys flinging flaming poo at people, which is the opening scene in one of Jim’s books… that doesn’t quite play as well on television.”
–Executive Producer Robert Hewett Wolfe of The Dresden Files

Harry from the book "White Knight"

The changes between the books and the series are significant, focusing on different needs and different strengths for a different medium.  The Dresden Files took many of the best qualities of the books, using them to make a great television series.  The world of magic is much more elaborate in the novels, yet streamlined for television.  Budgets forced more emphasis on characters instead of action and spectacle.  Even small details were changed, like Dresden’s wooden magic staff becoming a hockey stick in order to look less out-of-place in a normal world, or his trademark long black duster becoming more of a rumpled worn leather jacket.  But that adaptive process was magical in its own way, considering what the creative team had to do in order to portray that world on our screens every week, especially with the limitations of budgets and real-world locations.

Here are a series of quotes by Executive Producers Robert Hewett Wolfe and David Simkis on how their creative “magic” adapted the show for television.  For example, in casting process:

“We had a very long process to find Murphy.  In the books Murphy is a 5-foot tall Irish blonde… and so there was quite a bit of controversy when we cast a Cubana, a Cuban-American actress.  But we just thought that she brought the best qualities of, again, both that sort of humanity, but also the strength.  I believe that Murphy knows how to fire a gun, and wouldn’t hesitate to if you were a ‘perp’.”

The character name also had to change to Connie (from Karrin in the books) due to legal reasons, as there was at the time a real Chicago policewoman named Karyn Murphy!

The production adapted sets:

“Our Police District, which is actually an old Mercedes-Benz dealership in a different part of Toronto from the main sets.  We just took over the lease, I think, and we put all these dividers in.  (…) The whole place is basically just a reclaimed and remodeled car dealership that we grabbed the lease on, and it saved us from building any walls and was a really nice and economical way of creating that environment.”

It even re-designed characters, considering in the novels Bob is just a disembodied voice housed in a skull:

By the way, that's an axe wound in the back!

“It just became pretty obvious early on that if Dresden was going to have a confidante, that if he was going to have a friend, if he was going to have a ‘Watson’ so to speak, somebody who he could share these mysteries with and sort of bare his soul to,  that you just can’t get any sort of expression or any sort of sympathy from a skull, whether it’s flaming or not flaming or whatever it was doing.  Or however intriguing the voice is, or the voice artist would be.  So the decision was made very early on once we all sort of had the pilot in hand to re-cast that role, or cast that role for the first time.”

Let's trade accents, OK?

Here is one of the best bits of magic human actors can make.  Paul Blackthorne is actually English and Terrance Mann is American, but whenever the cameras started to roll they both had to switch accents so Dresden was the Chicago detective and Bob was the ghost who had originally lived in Britain!

Not only did the producers not follow the same story elements, they really didn’t even follow the same city:

“One of the nice things about [filming in] Toronto actually is those kinds of locations that really you don’t necessarily have the same quality of in Los Angeles that don’t look like Chicago.  (…)  It was really important to us, if we weren’t going to shoot in Chicago, to shoot in someplace like Toronto.  That looks a lot like Chicago, where we could actually pull off a credible Chicago, to the point that we showed the pilot to a critic from WGN she didn’t realize that we shot in Toronto.”

They even went so far as to cheat the weather:

Morgan watching over Harry (as usual)

“The first morning of the first day, pouring rain.  In fact, the single rainiest October day in Toronto history!  (…)  We’re actually at the lakeshore to “play” the water, but you can’t see it (…) and [Harry and Morgan] are under a tarp to catch the rain so they don’t get soaking wet, which I like to think is a little subtle bit of wizardry.  Neither one of them wants to get wet in the rain, so Morgan puts up a little magical umbrella, but you can see the rain occasionally in the foreground and they’re clearly dry as a bone.  So weather-wise it works for Chicago, unfortunately it just obliterated our background, and you look at the two of them, they’re sitting there in the rain, completely dry.”

So, the trick here isn’t that Harry Dresden is capable of magic, or even that his magical world interacts so often with our mundane one.  The trick here is that producers, directors, writers, actors, and an army of crew members can take those worlds and create them on television for us to enjoy and marvel at, and although we all know many of the obvious “special effects” that are used, it’s the magic of television that creates even more we never notice, all in the service of telling us a great story.  And that’s really the best magic trick of all.

PAUL BLACKTHORNE (Harry Dresden) starred in a couple of series in his native England (Peak Practice and Holby City) before plying his trade in Bollywood (in the film Laagan) for which he learned to speak Hindi.  Coming to America, his regular roles included the series ER, Lipstick Jungle, and a villain on season 3 of 24.  He is in demand as a guest actor as well, having recently appeared on Leverage, White Collar, and Warehouse 13.  An avid photographer, his work has been exhibited in London and New York.

TERRANCE MANN (Bob) has a Broadway résumé that reads like a “greatest hits” collection, including 2 Tony nominations and starring roles in Cats, Le Misérables, Assassins, Beauty and the Beast, The Addams Family, and The Scarlet Pimpernel.  His first big movie role was in the film adaptation of the musical A Chorus Line.  On acting, he said, “Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.”

CONRAD COATES (Morgan) is a Canadian actor and has appeared in recurring roles in Kyle XY, The Zack Files, and La Femme Nikita, and Degrassi: The Next Generation.  He has guested on numerous Canadian-based productions, including Warehouse 13, Slings & Arrows, Earth: Final Conflict, and War of the Worlds.  He also landed a part in the recent Tron: Legacy feature film.

VALERIE CRUZ (Connie Murphy) has been seen as a regular on Dexter, True Blood, Hidden Palms, and the first season of Nip/Tuck.  Guest shots have included roles on Crossing Jordan, Grey’s Anatomy, Invasion, and Dollhouse.  Her Cuban ancestry helped her gain the role as Dr. Zita Alvarez in the upcoming ABC medical series Off the Map.

Harry, Murphy, Bob, and Morgan. A magical cast.

The Dresden Files is available on DVD, with a couple of commentaries and a behind-the-scenes featurette that details some of the process of turning the book series into the TV version, and the episodes are also available at Hulu.  The books are still going strong, and you can find them in various formats at Amazon.com as well as most popular booksellers.  Author Jim Butcher has his own website where you can find out about upcoming books and more, including comic/graphic novel adaptations, the audio book versions read by actor James Marsters, and even a role-playing game so you can enter the world of The Dresden Files yourself.

If you ever hear mysterious sounds that go “bump” in the night, or a long-dead acquaintance suddenly re-enters your life, there’s really only one place to go, and only one man who can help.  I happened to stumble across a business card once that might do you some good.  It says:

“Harry Dresden – Wizard.  Lost items found.  Paranormal Investigations.  Consulting.  Advice.  Reasonable Rates.  No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

Just call him up.  Because although he’s not on TV anymore… he’s in the book.

Vital Stats

12 aired episodes – none unaired (although the pilot was lengthened to 2 hours at one point and shown as a movie version.
Sci-Fi Network
First aired episode:  January 21, 2007
Last aired episode:  April 15, 2007
Aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  Sunday at 9/8 actually, garnering decent ratings in a highly competitive timeslot, but it likely would have done better with Friday airings since Sci-Fi had developed an audience there already.

Comments and suggestions encouraged, as always.

–Tim R.

Television can be a magical medium, full of stories that create wonder, mystery, and surprise.  This week’s show did all that, especially the magic part… or should I say magick?  Five quotes:

“If things get weird, or weirder, or strange, or just if you’re not sure what’s going on, just… you just call me, all right?”

She’s trained to find evidence, not believe in hocus pocus… and she’s very good at her job…

“…that you just can’t get any sort of expression or any sort of sympathy from a skull…”

…but whenever the cameras started to roll, they both had to switch accents…

I happened to stumble across a business card once that might do you some good.

Amazing, that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Lots of changes, but the spirit (or spirits, as the case may be) really did continue from the source.  Come read about the magical changes this week on Friday @ 8/7 Central!

–Tim R.

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