Again, this USA Network series is based very loosely on the early Stephen King novel or the film with Martin Sheen. The third season takes the series much closer to the darker world of the King novel. Johnny’s growing obsession with Candidate Stillson flirts ever so dangerously with the tragic conclusion of the original story. Of course, the series appears to have strong legs. A fourth and fifth season are already ordered, so Johnny won’t be taking that ever fateful step… just yet. What makes this increasingly compelling storyline work is twofold. Fans of the original finally have some beef to sink their canines into. The second benefit is a direct payoff of this being a series instead of a single film. While we may think we know where Johnny’s headed, we now get to see it have a profound impact on his life. This is a solid 12 episode run and well worth the DVD shelf space required to display it.
Johnny Smith (Michael-Hall) was in a terrible car accident that left him in a coma for 6 years. When he finally awoke he found that his fiancée (deBoer) is now married to the county Sheriff (Bruno). His mother is dead, and her estate has been taken over by the local TV minister, Rev. Purdy (David Ogden Stiers). He now has psychic visions whenever he touches someone.
The audio is a priceless Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Although dialogue dominates a good portion of the series, Johnny’s visions provide an excellent opportunity for subtle and atmospheric ambient sounds. The mix is flawless. Sub range is quite impressive for a cable television show. This is what I like to call high definition audio.
The video presentation here is nearly as impressive as the audio. Each episode is presented in HD 16 x 9 widescreen format. Colors are near reference, and the black levels are impressive. In season 3, The Dead Zone made the jump to filming on Digital HD cameras. The results are indeed impressive.
The third season is not quite so full of extras as the previous years. Still, there is an audio commentary for each episode in the set. These commentaries are absolutely wonderful. The entire cast gets involved at one point or another. They are often funny, informative and always entertaining. The short clips of important guest stars also remain as do the selected Deleted Scenes.
“Making The Leap To HD” is an excellent feature that will educate the viewer on the new HD technology that many series are now utilizing. With more and more HD sets in more households current shows are looking rather dated without the new system.
“Cooking Verite” Ever wonder how a series feeds its enormous staff and crew? Well ponder no more. This feature takes you behind the scenes of catering on a series set.
“Quiet Confidence” Throw away those old Jane Fonda tapes. It’s workout with Chris Bruno time. Strictly for the females in the crowd.
“Five Minutes Till Mitch” What in the world this piece is doing here I don’t know, but it’s pretty damn funny.
Another great gag reel tops off an impressive lineup of extras.
The Dead Zone is subject to the new cable format season. This usually means a shorter run than standard network shows. Here we’re talking 12 instead of 20-something episodes. The tradeoff with cable is often the quality. The other problem this new schedule presents is an often split season. USA like its sister-ship Sci-Fi runs half of the episodes starting in June, the other half starting in January. Since these are traditionally dead times to the standard networks, it makes a kind of sense. I mention this only to make the point that this new breed of series works well on DVD. I stopped watching The Dead Zone on USA in anticipation of the DVDs. Better quality picture and sound, no advertisements, and it works on my schedule. “You should see what I see.”