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DVD Review - The Dead Zone - The Complete Second Season

June 20th, 2004

Stephen King's career as a horror writer is unprecedented. However, his record for adaptation is spotty at best. For every Green Mile there's a couple of Maximum Overdrive and let's not even mention The Lawnmower Man. Fortunately, the TV series The Dead Zone is one of the best Stephen King adaptations. This review deals specifically with DVD release of Season 2 - Buy from Amazon.

For those of you who haven't read the book or have seen the movie, the show tells the story of John Smith. A man who had the perfect life until a near fatal car cashed left him in a coma for six years. When he wakes up everything has changed, his fiancée married another man, his kid doesn't know he's his father, and oh yeah, now he has visions.

Season 2 continues the overarching story lines from season 1, he relationship with his former fiancée Sarah, stopping the upcoming nuclear holocaust, etc. And in many ways season 2 is a definite improvement on season 1. Several of the episodes that deal with these continuing story lines are standout episodes. For instance, Scars was particularly impressive especially guest star Gerald McRaney. I can't say too much about the episode without giving away spoilers, but it was one of the highlights for me.

But it was one of the standalone episodes that really sold me on the series, specifically Participate. In that episode Johnny Smith gets hit by a car and requires a pooled-blood product, and every time the blood passes through the dead zone he gets a vision of one of the 6 people whose donated blood he received. This episode allowed Anthony Michael Hall to really show off his range as he played these individuals while in his visions. And it was also one of the most complex story lines as well because of the number of characters and their interactions. Also, the episode had a really good mixture of urgency and humor, which I found extremely appealing. I'd go into further detail, but I don't want to spoil anything.

Bonus features include a complete from script to screen featurette, specifically episode 13, The Storm. It does contain spoilers so you may want to watch the episode first. Different segments deal with different aspects of creating an episode like script sessions, casting, special effects, etc. It's quite detailed and worth watching if you are interested in that side of the business.

But the main focus of the special features are the audio commentaries on all 19 episodes, and they include writers, directors, stars, producers and even guest stars so you get to listen to a lot of different points of view on a variety of topics. Like listening to Eric Schaeffer complain that every woman he met while shooting in Vancouver was married or otherwise not available. Or John L. Adams's train of thought as it just sort of fizzles out mid-sentence. You don't get those kinds of deep insights in most commentaries. But seriously, they are very interesting, blending humor, technical information and other behind the scenes information.

That is not to say I don't have any complaints about the commentary tracks. Most notably, despite what you hear from a certain actor, it is not always cold and rainy in Vancouver. I lived in a suburb of Vancouver for more than a decade and the weather is great, in fact, it is expected to hit 90 degrees this week.

One last minor detail, I wish the saga sale, the teaser and the opening credits were separate chapters so I could skip the preamble because it's the same every time, (barring the occasional "Previously on The Dead Zone…") Ok, it's only 24 seconds or so, but I'm an impatient man. At least the opening credits are at the end of the first chapter so you can easily skip them and not buried in the middle of it like in some other TV series I have on DVD.

Season 3 started a couple of weeks ago on the USA Net and show an improvement in the ratings from last season. And this show deserves its success. Before I was even halfway finished watching Season 2 for this review, I had gone out and bought Season 1. And I think that's the highest complement I can give.

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