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Anticipating A Different Millennium

I wanted to love Millennium. I had seen and heard all the hype for X Files creator Chris Carter's new TV series, and as a devoted X-Phile, I found myself impatiently anticipating Carter's new creative endeavor. When the program premiered last October on Fox I was seated before my television and drooling expectantly.

The pilot episode's opening scene focused on scantily-clad dancers in a dark peepshow in downtown Seattle. Trent Reznor's "Hey Piggy" provided the soundtrack as the viewers at home became privy to one of the peepshow customers' graphically violent hallucinations. "Well," I thought to myself, wondering when the censorship would start, "this looks a little too interesting for television."

The show's story focuses on Frank Blank, a former FBI agent who has just moved to suburban Seattle to enjoy a quiet life with his wife and young daughter. Black has a near-psychic ability to get inside killers' heads and see what they have seen. Watching the first episode, sometimes I couldn't keep Black and the killer straight. Black, played by Lance Henriksen (you might remember him from "Aliens"), is creepy and intense and psycho-killeresque himself. Of course, he ends up offering to assist the Seattle Police Department and getting dragged back into the profession of chasing after serial killers.

A few weeks after I watched the pilot for Millennium, I caught an episode of the NBC series Profiler, which is about a female forensic psychologist with the unique (except on TV, of course) ability to visualize a crime through the eyes of both the perpetrator and victim. Déjà view? Profiler's Sam Waters, like Millennium's Black, also tried to retire to the quiet suburbs, but (also like Black) in the series' first episode she was coaxed back into the world of serial killers to solve a brutal string of murders. The only obvious differences between Profiler and Millennium are that the former is set in Atlanta while the latter is in Seattle and that Waters is a woman. Oh yeah -- Waters' husband has actually been killed by one of her serial killer nemeses, while Black's wife is merely threatened and stalked by one of his.

The violence in Millennium is certainly creative (in the pilot, Black's visions lead the police to dig up a man who has been buried alive with his eyes and mouth sewn shut and his fingertips roughly amputated) and the killer was a genuine weirdo (obsessed by apocalyptic prophecies and consumed by sexual guilt), but it really wasn't that different from what I had just seen in "Seven." I had been hoping that Chris Carter would use Millennium as a vehicle to explore human beings' universal apocalyptic fears as we approach the year 2000. So far, the show has mostly played on the audience's fear of random violence and highly intelligent serial killers.

Perhaps out of reverence for Chris Carter, I continue to watch Millennium, hoping that the apocalypse stuff will show up. In recent episodes I have seen a woman receive a severed tongue in the mail, a killer dispose of his victims in a dead letter office, and a young man burned alive while tripping on acid.

That may sound exciting, but it's really not. There's not much chemistry between Henriksen and Megan Gallagher, who plays Black's wife -- and it certainly doesn't rival the Mulder-Scully relationship on The X Files.

Despite the Fox network's concerted attempts to market Millennium to the X-files' audience, it remains clear that this new series is missing something. Millennium is becoming the thing I fear most: mediocre TV.


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