I wonder if Johnny Smith could have seen it coming. After 6 short seasons the USA Network series based on Stephen King’s The Dead Zone has finally closed up shop. The series is based very loosely on the early Stephen King novel or the film with Martin Sheen. Johnny still goes into a coma and comes out with psychic abilities. He even meets the infamous Senate candidate destined to destroy the world. The similarities between the original tale and this surprising series end there. This show is more about Johnny using his abilities for good whenever he can. We find out that it was meeting Bruce, a physical therapist who was not in the original story, that kept him from the self-destructive path King had outlined for him. 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. We get to see the character develop, heading inevitably toward the dark future he has caught glimpses of for several years now.
The final season of The Dead Zone is a bit of an up and down ride. There’s been a considerable change in the cast, and the show suffers immensely from the loss of too many characters. Walt, Purdy, Bruce, and Janus are all gone. I’ve often spoken about how truly good shows survive the loss of characters. I still believe that, but here we’ve lost the entire heart of the series, and all at once. Over the years I’ve grown pretty fond of Bruce. He’s really been more of Johnny’s anchor than Sarah. If I didn’t believe that before, I know it to be true today. This final season give more opportunity for the Johnny and Sarah thing to take center stage, and you know what? It’s not as cool as I thought. The chemistry simply isn’t as dynamic as it seemed when we had Walt in between them and Bruce to guide Johnny’s energies. What can I say about the loss of David Ogden Stiers? Fortunately he’s not completely gone and shows up a couple of times. Stiers is one of the finest television actors out there, and these limitations on his role can never be good for any series. Certainly these characters do show up, but very briefly. Even the Stilson character has been severely back burnered. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of either Stilson or Sean Patrick Flanery’s portrayal, but much of Johnny’s mission is now gone as well. One of the better episodes in this year happens to be Re-Entry, where Johnny must work with Stilson to save a space mission and the lives of the astronauts. The show has also become far more episodic with less of the huge mythology arc and stories that admittedly slowed down the show far too often in the past. So this is a case of bittersweet as we reach the end. The finale was somewhat nicely done, and a lot of answers are revealed, which I won’t spoil for you by addressing here. All I’ll say is that fans likely felt the show had a satisfying conclusion.
The video presentation here is nearly as impressive as the audio. Each episode is presented in HD 16 x 9 wide screen format. Colors are near reference. 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 audio is a priceless Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Although dialog 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.
Audio Commentaries: There are four episodes with commentaries featuring various cast and crew. The best of these can be found on the aforementioned Re-Entry. This track features Shawn Pillar, Jim Dunn, and Sam Ernst.
A New Home For The Dead Zone: This 8 minute feature talks about the show relocating from
All Aboard – Filming The Dead Zone On A Train: The episode Switch requires the use of a train set for most of the episode. Like the location piece, this is a little over 5 minutes of soundbites.
While the Finale offers up some nice answers, it doesn’t really address the biggest question: What about Stilson and his “end of the world” presidency. The show’s cancellation was not expected, so the show was unprepared to finish the mythology arc. It’s rather strange, really. There had been talk of cancellation after almost each of the last 4 years, but somehow the show seemed to reappear out of nowhere. The Location feature goes a long way to explaining this erratic airing schedule. I expect we haven’t really heard the end of Johnny Smith. Word is that Pillar has been shopping around the show, or at least a mini-series or television film. Like shows from