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Weekly Alibi I See Dead People on TV

'The Others' on NBC

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 20, 2000:  For the past couple seasons, NBC's Saturday night Thrillogy has had a slight problem -- namely, the fact that it's only had two shows. Following the swift death of historical UFO drama "Dark Skies" (now in reruns over on Sci-Fi Channel), NBC's "Pretender" and "Profiler" were left to hold up a thrilling TV triangle with only two sides. Now, after years of juggling reruns and inappropriate (albeit excellent) shows like "Freaks and Geeks," NBC has found itself a perfect Thrillogy linchpin in the supernatural drama "The Others."

In just a few short weeks, "The Others" has established itself as an addictive "don't forget to set the VCR" show. Julianne Nicholson (seen in last summer's The Love Letter) is the nominal star of this spooky ensemble series, playing Marian Kitt, a troubled college student haunted by visions of dead people. Word of Marion's visions spreads, and she is soon introduced by one of her college professors to a secret group of psychic investigators. There's the wise old mentor, the hunky medical intern/empath, the cute psychic chick, the nutty visionary and the grumpy blind guy blessed with "second sight." Together this sometimes contentious group tries to help the dead (and occasionally the living) with their assorted travails.

Each show centers around some sort of "Scooby-Doo"-style mystery. Seems once you die, you lose your ability to say exactly what the hell your problem is. As a result, each spirit our psychic superheroes encounter speaks in riddles, leaves obscure clues or otherwise acts in a confusing manner. Eventually, the living are rescued, the dead are put to rest, and we all get to revel in a happy "Touched By an Angel" ending.

Admittedly, "The Others" is little more than an attempt to cash in on the paranormal popularity of last summer's "Sixth Sense" tidalwave. The inclusion of some crackerjack talent behind the camera, however, lifts "The Others" far above the normal level of rip-off series. Produced by Glen Morgan and Jim Wong (of "X-Files" fame) and frequently directed by such bigwig camera-slingers as Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) and Mick Garris (basically every Stephen King mini-series ever made), "The Others" packs some surprising thrills in amongst its ghostly goings-on. Ghosts in bathtubs, monsters in wallpaper and demonic kids are just a few of the hair-raising treats to be had here.

More than anything else, Marian and her mental compatriots resemble an underdressed version of "The X-Men" -- a comparison the show's creators would do well to emphasize. When it gets all talky and spiritual, "The Others" bogs down. When it goes Tim Burton creepy and the psychic powers start flying, the show really cooks. More work also needs to be done to differentiate each castmember's unique abilities. If every member of "The X-Men" had the same powers, it would get really boring, really fast -- a danger that "The Others" should be wary of.

Such criticisms are minor, however. If "The Others" can generate enough spooky scenarios to send its secret psychic society after every week, then the show will undoubtedly keep NBC's Thrillogy thrilling for years to come.


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