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Dresden Files
Reviewed by J. V. Carone, © 2007

Format: TV
Genre:   Fantasy
Review Date:   January 29, 2007
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

The closest many have come to "sitting down to read" in the past week is parking their butt on cold porcelain and paging through Cable and Deadpool. For the most part, people have no tolerance for science fiction or fantasy books in other rooms of the household. Former fans who don't read science fiction at all any longer have a number of valid and invalid reasons for abandoning the genre. These reasons range from "I don't have time, I work for a living" to "I'm dumb, LOL."

But perhaps the most valid reason to abandon the genre is that fans have suffered through a lot of disappointment in the past few years. Now that we're living in the age of CGI over substance, the clamp is firmly on the innovation teat. Studios now think that things like Bicentennial Man and Will Smith's I, Robot are good ideas.

Science fiction fans have so many other things to whine about, too. The Star Wars prequels disappointed. Star Trek won't be back for years. Firefly is stone cold dead. There are no more Lord of the Rings movies coming out. Farscape's muppets are packed and ready for eBay. The X-Files' last season is still stinking up the place. Cthulhu knows what's going on with the new Harry Potter. Indiana Jones IV is coming out fifteen years too late.

How did all these missteps happen? And more importantly, for all the genius that it took to start those franchises, is there really nothing new coming down the pipes for us to fall in love with? Enter Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, wizard for hire.

In the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden is a wise-cracking, rugged, morbid combination of Sam Spade and a shot of enchanted whiskey. He's seen a lot of death and been in a lot of pain, emotionally, spiritually and, most of all, physically. While he's still in the prime of his life, you sometimes get the feeling that he's just sick of how this screwed up world of magic fell in his lap.

Every day it seems like he has to deal with the internal strife of the Machiavellian wizard's council, old grudges coming back to haunt him in the form of a twelve-foot-tall werewolf, or the lesbian politics of warring vampire clans. Others would get tired of dealing with these petty squabbles as well and lose interest in the franchise, but throw in a couple reoccuring dashes of implied fratricide, sex with freaky creatures out of Universal's XXX monster catalogue, and ghosts so psychotic that they would make Casper kill himself again, and, as Carl Weathers might say, "You got yourself a stew going ."

Here's a great main character that an audience can relate to and cheer for. So, how did Sci-Fi screw things up this time?

Funny thing is, they didn't. There must be someone in a position of power who understands their audience. Whoever it is, they must work at the Sci-Fi Channel. Sure, they have a few bad ideas, like investing most of their money into Stargate-related properties, but they also land a few shots in the right direction. Eureka , Farscape, Battlestar Galactica and Mansquito wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Sci-Fi Channel. The Dresden Files, while perhaps not a bullseye, is one more example of great grouping.

As should be expected, the books did not go unscathed in the transition to TV. In fact, the show can be compared unfavorably to Charmed in that it doesn't have three hot Biccans running around in belly button shirts, but a pretty similar premise. While Harry's character is kept more or less in tact, with perhaps a bit more of a noble streak this time around, other characters have been condensed into TV-14-friendly versions of their former selves.

In the books, the character "Bob" is a talking skull which has been possessed by the trapped soul of a thousand-year-old necromancer who is obsessed with pornography. In fact, he once managed to hop onto a man's back while he and his lady were conceiving, all the while giving color commentary on what he was doing right and wrong. The TV version of Bob is a flabby English actor playing a ghost, who is pretty much Harry's Alfred Pennyworth.

Officer Murphy, a mouthy, arrogant and sassy character from the book series with family ties to the mafia, is now played by a piece of curvy wood.

The plots of the shows don't seem to mirror exactly what has been happening in the books, and so it can be assumed that its taking place in a self-contained universe of its own. While this can be a serious bone of contention for hardcore fans, it's of little consequence to people tuning in looking just to have a good time.

However, they may be hard-pressed to find that in more than a handful of moments from the show's first episodes, as everything seems tough for the actors to adapt to. To be fair, it is difficult to come into a role knowing that there is a whole world built around it that you know little or nothing about, so it might take time for the show to hit its stride.

But until it does, this show is worth the time it takes to watch it. It sure beats reading a book.

J.V. Carone knows all about the enchanted whiskey. Except for the enchanted part.

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