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Forever Knight: Dead Air

"Let me just write this down. That's N-O-R-M-A-N Bates."

It's time for sexy talk radio, and your host this week is a Toronto vampire on the trail of a serial killer!

Remember the glory days of talk radio? For Americans not in a major city (which is most Americans), TV was harder to come by than you might think in ye old days. Sure, I could watch Forever Knight if I stayed up until midnight (when the local station would play their tapes from Canada) but there were only two channels in my hometown, and, most of the time, nothing good was on either. ("Do you wanna watch M*A*S*H or Happy Days?" we would say.)

Enter talk radio.

With airwaves that could reach vastly further than any TV broadcast, the radio brought countless voices into my life. And the later, the better. A new world opened up to me when I, as a child, learned to adjust that dial and curl up in bed with my cheap little radio. The world of grown-ups and weirdos was piped into my otherwise dull, country-fried life.

A year later the hit show Frasier would dominate TV with a show about a radio host, but Forever Knight beat them to the punch. For starters, the show's antagonist, La Croix, has a radio show he broadcasts in the middle of the night. It's interesting to imagine how he got that gig. It's probably community radio, where you just pay for your time. So this guy pays the station and sits in the booth at night to say the weirdest stuff Toronto's ever heard.

Nick is probably the only listener, and he can't stop tuning in even though it always makes him uncomfortable. I imagine this is because he isn't able to resist the mystical pull of his vampire master.

(Also, most of those stations force the on-air personalities to do pledge drives once or twice a year. It's really funny to imagine La Croix telling his listeners they can get a cute tote bag if they'll pledge.)

In Dead Air we have a naughty (pre-Frasier) radio shrink, asking people to call in about their kinks and their naughty thoughts. Guys, this was exactly how talk radio sounded when the sun went down. MTV even had a show just like it. Sure, it was a TV show, so we had the added thrill of watching a host take phone calls. It didn't last long. The MTV executives must have thought it would be more fun than, oh, I don't know, watching music videos of popular artists, but it turns out that watching a shrink take phone calls was about as much fun as watching someone order pizza.

I digress. Dead Air is about a serial killer who calls a certain radio show and kills women on the air. The radio shrink, Dr. Christina Noble, tries to help our heroes save the day. It's a good setup, but the episode suffers from some serious editing issues and a few bone-headed decisions.

The first problem is that the murders are a little grim. I realize murder is always grim, but this episode shows some uncomfortable stuff in an effort to be "edgy." I respect the show for trying to be different, but I don't want to watch a guy strangle a girl with telephone wire. This is a darker tone than I want in my evening vampire show.

But as the investigation launches, things kick off pretty well. Our heroes gather data in smart ways and set off to find someone who would kill women in a bridal suite after dressing them up a certain way. Dr. Noble helps them profile the killer. Everything seems to be moving along...

...but then Dr. Noble says something odd. She remembers a previous patient of hers who was exactly like this one. No one thinks that's worth investigating. They shrug it off.

For crying out loud.

Schanke hits a record room in a hospital to search for clues. The staff won't help him, because finding a killer doesn't motivate them, I guess. Eventually he does find someone whose murder M.O. fits the crimes and... guess what? It's Dr. Noble's old patient, who recently escaped from the hospital!

This seems really avoidable. She pegged him as a perfect suspect and no one bothered to make sure he was still incarcerated?

Anyway, then it gets weird.

Nick and Schanke agree that Dr. Noble is in trouble... so... Nick puts on his robe and sits around playing cards with himself.

These are the infamous "Eurominutes" I've talked about, where TV shows had to add scenes to pad the time. That's fine. But normally Nick does this stuff during the day, when he can't go outside. (It highlights the theme and title of the show.) Putting it here is very confusing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Noble gets a call from the killer. She decides to drive off by herself, in the middle of the night, to a remote motel to meet him. She doesn't, oh, I don't know, call the police. I'm not trying to victim-blame here, but this wasn't the sharpest idea in the world.

This episode has a fun start, but it really tanks as the characters do dumb things. Admittedly, it is fun when Nick sits in Dr. Noble's chair and hosts the radio show, hoping the killer calls in. In fact, I wish that was more of the episode. Imagine him taking calls from Toronto's biggest perverts. Or Janette trolling him with prank calls about biting fetishes. That would have been a blast.

Flashback

We're all going to agree this flashback never happened. Partly because it's really uncomfortable to watch Janette and La Croix torture a guy. But also because Janette says, "La Croix, doesn't he look like your father?"

La Croix is one of the oldest vampires alive, and his father died in ancient Rome. Janette never saw him. And why would that make La Croix happy? He hasn't displayed daddy issues. I realize they were trying to make an Oedipal theme happen, but this is a very odd scene that we're all just going to pretend we never saw.

Quotes

"This stuff makes vampires look like cute little school boys."

"So now it's just a race against time."
"Tends to be that way when you're working against a serial killer."

Little Bites

-Familiar Faces: The killer is played by David Hewlett. He's made countless TV and film appearances, but he's most known for his role as Dr. Rodney McKay on Stargate.

-Vampire Lore: Nick uses super hearing to catch Schanke listening into the sexy talk show when he thinks Nick is too far away to notice.

-Fashion Police: Nick's red blazer makes me think he's about to hold up a deck and ask me to pick a card.

"Now, we've never met before, have we?"

-Schanke is always right: Notice that Schanke's part of the investigation, where he follows his instincts and trudges through the hospital records for a few days, is what cracks the case. Give that man a raise.

-The best part of the episode is the last scene. Nick and Schanke are a hilarious on-screen duo, and it's very charming when Nick calls the new sexy talk show to embarrass Schanke. The show's about men in uniform and how women react to them. Sadly, we never get to hear Schanke's naughty confession. You'll have to use your imaginations...

-Caller ID never, ever, ever took that long. TV shows loved to play the "Keep them talking!" card, but it didn't work like that.

Final Analysis: Great idea and a good start, but bad choices and baffling editing brings us down to two out of five tote bags.

Adam D. Jones is a writer, musician, and medievalist who feels a kinship for vampires because his sensitive eyes that make it difficult to go outside during the day.

2 comments:

  1. I'm OK with the hospital staff not helping Schanke. The police are apparently keeping the whole serial killer thing quiet, so the staff don't have much of a reason to break patient confidentiality.
    Nice analysis of all the problems with this episode. Yeah, Dr Noble not telling anyone where she's going when she's one of the few people in that era who actually *has a mobile phone* is really dumb. Possibly one more: our killer who has oh so carefully timed his previous phone calls so he can't be traced manages to screw up this time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really good point. They only solved the case because the killer screwed up.

    ReplyDelete

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