STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $34.98
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 492 minutes
• “The Other Side of the Camera” featurette on the directorial debuts of series regulars Chris Bruno and John L. Adams
• “A Day With JLA” featurette on a typical day on the set with John L. Adams
• Four Audio Commentaries: “Independence Day”, “Articles of Faith”, “Revelations”, “The Hunting Party”
• Deleted Scenes

The Pitch

If you’re a pedophile, kidnapper, murderer, or a member of the Bush administration, don’t let this guy touch you…seriously.

The Humans

Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole de Boer, Chris Bruno, John L. Adams, David Ogden Stiers, Sean Patrick Flannery.

"Okay, the guy who painted this wall was a Guatemalan – no, a Honduran named Pedro and he used…um…latex paint, yeah. Huh, and he’s two weeks late on his porn rental…"

The Nutshell

Season Five of the Stephen King adaptation about psychic Johnny Smith (Hall), who is compelled to try to change the bleak futures that he sees via the visions that he gets by touching things. The main vision he is embroiled in is the ongoing saga of the rise to power of Maine congressman, Greg Stillson (Flannery), which is orchestrated by a shadow organization. Stillson’s eventual ascension to the White House portends the end of the world and it’s up to Johnny to learn more about that terrible fate before it befalls. Along the way, there are stand alone adventures spurred on by Johnny’s premonitions such as the abduction of his star-crossed former love, Sarah (de Boer) and a 4th of July where a bunch of people could end up very dead.

"Wow, Sarah, I thought I’d seen it all, but I this is some kinky-assed shit you got goin’ here…"

The Lowdown

For every five or so bad adaptations of Stephen King’s voluminous works, occasionally we get a Shawshank Redemption or the original theatrical Dead Zone: a truly worthy envisioning of King’s writings. What’s even rarer to date is an adaptation of an adaptation, and yet now in its sixth season, The Dead Zone continues to be a solid performer on TV, headed up by Anthony Michael Hall as Smith and the interesting stories the show runners continue to tell, especially in the wake of the death of series co-creator Michael Piller two years ago from cancer. Zone is still cranking out entertaining tales, in either stand alone episodes or while continuing to build on and expand the Stillson mythology, which has become the heart of the show.

Of course the main feature of the show is still the portrayals of Johnny’s visions through the interesting special effects that were created for the show. One might think that after five seasons the fairly one-note formula would have started to run dry, but Zone continues to ride that one-note premise like Jenna Jameson atop Guy #4,132. I think it’s a credit to Hall and the production crew and writers that they’re able to keep the premise fresh, even if it isn’t. Hall is eminently likeable in the role, and he looks like he’s as high on portraying it as he was from day one and he’s brought his own flavor to the role, portraying Smith as quite a bit more upbeat than Walken’s more fatalistic and dour (yet still excellent) version. It’s understandable considering that five seasons of doom and gloom might tend to make for a slightly downbeat show.

"Okay, so, psychic or no psychic, neither of you saw what I’m about to do to that guy who flipped me off…comprende?"

They also continue to get good mileage out of the Stillson mythology, bookending Season 5 with a couple of episodes, “Forbidden Fruit” and “The Hunting Party”, that show Stillson on a direct path for the Oval Office, spearheaded by the machinations of your typical bad guy behind the scenes, called Michael Janus (Martin Donovan). “Forbidden Fruit” concerns Stillson’s impending marriage to Miranda Ellis (Laura Harris), the daughter of powerful Senator Harlan Ellis (Stargate SG-1’s Don S. Davis), which will further legitimize Stillson’s presidential cred. We see that the marriage is one of convenience, not only for Stillson, but also Janus, who has other plans for the wedding that don’t necessarily involve the exchange of rings. And in “The Hunting Party” Janus and Stillson take even more direct steps to get Stillson to the big house involving a conspiracy theorist, the vice president, and a big gun.

"You know Bruce, I foresee that these two chicks here are going to end up in bed with us."
"Really, you had a vision about that?"
"More like a gut feeling after we slip them these couple of roofies I’ve got in my pocket…"

Other episodes include “Independence Day,” where Johnny has to figure out how to stop a massive death toll on a highway, without pissing off death and having the people start to die in strange…oh, sorry, that was Final Destination 2…but you get the idea. In “Panic”, Johnny has to deal with some killers who invade his house with only his visions keeping him and his son one step ahead of them. “Lotto Fever” concerns Johnny’s fateful kidnapping by a guy who lost out – by winning the lottery – and blaming Johnny for all of it. And “Symmetry” concerns Johnny’s identity crisis when, after an attack, he begins reliving the lives of both his attacker and one of the attacker’s former victims. And “Into The Heart Of Darkness” is a wrap up to the Season 4 episode “The Collector”, when the eponymous villain seeks revenge on Johnny and Walt by kidnapping Sarah. There’s a good scene in that episode when you discover that although Sarah does indeed love Walt, her feelings for Johnny have never gone away.

Definitely one of the freakier visions Johnny had was when he happened to brush up against David Lee Roth and saw just exactly what he was really doing with some of the female patients on his EMT runs…

Dead Zone is still a very solid show to watch and although it’s partially serialized with the Stillson arc, it’s still very accessible to new watchers. The only maddening thing is that Season 5 consists of only 11 episodes. That’s not even the cable standard of 13, which in itself is maddening enough when you want more of a good thing via a full season. In a cool gesture however, Michael Piller continues to be listed as an executive producer even though he’s since departed from his creation. His stamp is still very present on this show and I think he’d be satisfied by how it’s continued on even though he wasn’t able to.

Those guys who teased Powder mercilessly really should have listened when Johnny told them he was only going to take it lying down for so long…

The Package

There’s some pretty good offerings on the specials features front, including two featurettes, “A Day With JLA”, which is roughly 15 minutes of video diary with co-star John L. Adams on the set. And “The Other Side of the Camera” is another 15-minute piece with Chris Bruno and Adams as they prepared to direct their first episodes. There’s also four commentaries by Hall and the cast and crew on episodes “Independence Day”, “Articles of Faith”, “Revelations” and “The Hunting Party”. Several deleted scenes round out the goodies.

7.8 out of 10