“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….
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.