Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2002 / 12 Teves, 5763

Media Person

Media Person
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Consumer Reports

Did you get taken? | Media Person has the eerie feeling that he is the only person in America who watched Steven Spielberg's Taken on the Sci-Fi Channel. No one else seems to be talking about this giant mothership of a series that journeyed across two lightweeks of videospace at the incredible rate of two hours per night.

Maybe people are afraid to say they saw it. Maybe they fear no one will believe them and they will be scorned and jeered at and then, after being held up to unbearable ridicule by friends, family and co-workers, they'll be tracked down and killed by a sinister secret government agency that doesn't want the truth to get out.

Hey, it's possible. This series has definitely been causing weird things to happen. For instance, every time Media Person tried to log onto the official Steven Spielberg's Taken website, his computer froze.

Do you really believe that's mere coincidence?

Now Media Person knows what you're thinking (owing to a strange new power he acquired while watching Steven Spielberg's Taken that enables him to know what you're thinking) and it is this: "What's the big deal about yet another Little-Green-Men drama? We've seen zillions of 'em in movies, TV shows, comic books, supermarket tabloids and bubblegum wrappers, including several from Steven Spielberg's Taken's Steven Spielberg himself. So what has this thing got to engage my limited attention span other than its Proustian length?"

MP will tell you what. This was the definitive Little-Green-Men drama, the one that grabbed up every rumor, every myth, legend, secret, fabrication and factoid that anyone's ever heard of regarding UFO sightings, landings, abductions and invasions and regurgitated them into one seamless plot, reaching from 1944 to the present, that explained everything. Why they came. What they're doing here. Who they're doing it to. And how they've kept it a secret from everyone but the U.S. Air Force, which is so busy keeping it a secret from the rest of us that they've forgotten why.

Media Person suspects that some potential viewers were put off by the narrator of the series, an angelic-looking nine-year-old girl with the creepiest voice since Tiny Tim's. The creepy girl herself didn't show up until Week 2 but her voiceover was there from the start, probably causing many easily startled viewers to hit the channel-switching button. These people weren't around long enough to find out that the creepy girl was the product of two generations and four decades worth of illegal breeding experi ments by those meddlesome aliens and thus was smarter than everyone else on earth, even Tommy Mottola, who has somehow fooled those credulous earthlings into believing that Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey are big stars.

The creepy girl is certainly smarter than all the adults in the series, though this is a standard Spielberg conceit, along with the evil military/science establishment. She's constantly telling people what their dead relatives have been feeling about them lately and as if that wasn't annoying enough, she has this preternatural calm, even in the most dire and bizarre circumstances imaginable. Finally, you want someone to step on her and squash her like a cockroach from outer space but the closest anyone came to this was putting an iron mask over her head so she couldn't signal her telepathic alien pals in the ever-looming flying saucer which, by the way, looked exactly like the ones in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and several other movies one could name. You envision it sitting in a Hollywood garage somewhere in between assignments until its agent calls on his cell phone, ordering it to hover over this set at 9AM and then go shoot laser rays at that one at 11:30.

But in the final analysis, you ask, was Steven Spielberg's Taken any good? Actually, it was pretty entertaining for a cliched premise that went on about a week longer than forever, although Media Person can't be certain because at the time he wrote this comprehensive appraisal, he actually had two episodes to go. It did manage to work up a modicum of suspense and also brought back the ever-peculiar Matt Frewer (Remember Max Headroom?) as the world's most eccentric science bureaucrat, one who seemed to find every crisis unleashed by the aliens to be hilariously entertaining and also his own sex scene with a female science bureaucrat.

Ultimately, though, Steven Spielberg's Taken forces us to ponder the Big Question, which is of course, Why are so many people eager to believe in beings from space? Media Person suggests the answer is: Who cares? Most people are so bored and disappointed with their quotidian existence, they'll glom onto anything that comes along that promises amusement. This pretty much explains everything from religion to eating truffles to Elvis worship to collecting rare conch shells to running for the presidency.

The fact is there are no saucers or alien kidnappings because a civilization that advanced would have such great television they'd never have any need to leave their homes, let alone their planet.

JWR contributor Media Person -- a.k.a Lewis Grossberger -- is a columnist for Media Week. Comment by clicking here.


12/05/02: Mathers of importance

© 2002, Lewis Grossberger