Friday, September 30, 2005

TV Review: Threshold

Threshold is the second of the three new Lost wannabes. And it owns the middle ranking for quality and viability. However it has the worst title (the title doesn't help you remember which of the three shows is which, whereas "Surface" tells you its the sea creature one and "Invasion" tells you its the one with the best chance because it got the best title).

Threshold is CBS' offering. In a surprise to no one, the show feels very much like CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS, Cold Case, Without A Trace, and probably Numb3rs and Criminal Minds. CBS has had so much success with procedural crime dramas that the network is now pathetically incapable of fielding anything else.

Therefore the story is told from the perspective of a high-tech, unlimited budget government agency with a super team of quirky geniuses and experts in various fields (all with shiny equipment in ergonomically tragic, yet visually stunning labs). There are of course victims who have mysteriously died (due to exposure to some alien signal) and each body and location must be examined in CSI-like fashion (or should I say "CBS-like fashion"?).

And since this is yet another CSI clone, there's no point talking about characters. The fact that it has slick, superb production values (and looks spectacular in HDTV) and fits comfortably into the CBS procedural landscape means that it will find modest if not spectacular success.

What irks me most (other than the transparent CSI-with-aliens conceit) are the silly ways the alien menace manifests itself. A big pulse exposes people to some weird alien condition. Fine. But then watching a videotape of that pulse also affects the viewer ala The Ring? Come on. And then, as a fast food security camera films one of the affected people thrashing around, the video feed goes a little fuzzy and displays an "alien fractal pattern". But it looks more like a video overlay - like the CBS logo that happily lives in the corner of the screen. Video interference is one thing, but projecting a symbol - unintentionally no less - is ridiculous.

As long as they keep finding excuses for people to keep dying while the alien mystery deepens, CBS has another auto-pilot procedural hit on its hands. Snore.


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