This really isn't what we expect in mid-summer.
We expect the TV doldrums -- reruns and reality and throw-away shows. Instead, we get a rich burst of science fiction.
The best news is "Torchwood: Miracle Day," a miracle of show. The first three episodes indicate that this comes close to the quality of "Torchwood: Children of the Earth," the best show of 2009. I'll put my preview story here in a minute.
There's much more sci-fi, all on cable:
-- Fridays: "Torchwood" debuts at 10 p.m. this week, with its compelling, 10-week story.
-- Saturdays: The new "Outcasts" (a pretty good, dead-serious drama) is 9 p.m. on BBC America, following reruns of the wonderful "Battlestar Galactica" series.
-- Mondays: On July 11, Syfy starts a three-show package. "Eureka" and "Warehouse 13" -- each bouncing between light human touches and stern sci-fi -- have season-openers at 8 and 9 p.m., followed by the debut of a sleek and sinewy show called "Alphas" at 10.
-- Also: On July 15, "Haven" starts its season. That's 10 p.m. Fridays ... which, is when we'll be watching the superb second episode of "Torchwood: Miracle Day." Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
At first, the plan seemed to violate
Actors want to do more, not less; two
years ago, however, John Barrowman learned that his “Torchwood”
series would shrink. “We had gone from 13 episodes (a season) down
to five,” he said.
Could that possibly be a good thing?
Yes, actually; it propelled “Torchwood” to the top.
Now it's back with a new story, 10
episodes and epic expectations. And now this British series is set in
the U.S. “We admire the size and scale of stuff” here, said
Russell Davies, the “Torchwood” creator.
“Torchwood: Miracle Day” starts big
– “one day on Earth, no one dies,” Davies said – and then
grows. He promises a “massive, shattering climax.”
And yes, that's far from the show's
Davies revived and re-invented the
classic “Doctor Who” series in 2003, then used it to spin off
“Torchwood.” Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman), unflappable and
immortal, probed odd events.
This was, Davies said,
“monster-of-the-week …. It was always slightly in “Doctor
There were two such “Torchwood”
seasons on BBC Three, followed by the five-episode mini-series.
“Torchwood: Children of the Earth”
was complex and ambitious, with aliens demanding our offspring. It
won the BAFTA (British) award for best drama series, the Saturn
(sci-fi) award for best TV show, a Television Critics Association
nomination for best movie or miniseries and much praise. TV Guide's
Matt Roush called it “thrilling, chilling and unnerving.”
Now “Torchwood” is back, again
with a single, self-contained story. In a series, said actor Bill
Pullman, “you are kind of shooting the same bullet a lot …. But
this story is incredibly evolving.”
First we meet his character, who is “a
convicted murderer and a pedophile,” Pullman said. “I'm put
through lethal injections … and I live. That's the beginning.”
It's a crisis, Davies said. “The
Earth relies on people dying. That's how the whole system works.”
With conspirators inside the
government, Captain Jack needs a rogue unit. He has two British
colleagues – Gwen and her husband; they link with a computer whiz,
a doctor and a CIA agent – “very dedicated, very focused and …
kind of a cocky, arrogant guy,” said Mekhi Phifer, who plays him.
This was filmed in the U.S., giving Eve
Myles (who plays Gwen) her first chance to live here. “I had a
little meeting with a coyote,” she said. Her solution? “I threw
an orange at it.”
For the star, however, this is nothing
new. Barrowman is a Scottish native and a British TV star, but his
accent and background are mid-American.
He was 8 when his family moved to
Joliet, Ill., where his dad was vice-president of Caterpillar. There
was no culture shock, Barrowman insists. “It was more of an easy
adventure for me.”
The same happened in reverse, when he
left to study theater at a British school. It was supposed to be a
six-month course, but he promptly became a musical-comedy star – on
tour and on London's West End. Today, Barrowman and his partner
(architect Scott Gill) have homes in London, Los Angele and Cardiff,
Wales, where “Torchwood” used to be set. “It's beautiful here,”
he said, by phone from Cardiff.
Still, he can only be there part of the
year. The world needs to be saved again.
– “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” Starz
– 10 p.m. Fridays for 10 episodes,
starting July 8
– Reruns include 11 p.m. Fridays, 10
p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays