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Weekly Alibi The End is (Still) Nigh

"Millennium" on FX

By Devin D. O'Leary

JULY 26, 1999:  There's something either terribly ironic or slightly sinister in the fact that FOX's supernatural crime series "Millennium" was canceled mere months before the new millennium was set to begin. Oh well, let's just leave the Internet pundits to ponder such queer bits of coincidence.

Despite three short seasons of mediocre, roller coaster-style ratings, "Millennium" succeeded in gathering a devoted fan base (an inevitable result, of course, for any sci-fi/horror series). Although the show's creator, Chris Carter, packed a healthy résumé, the show never quite took off like his previous FOX hit, "The X-Files." After 67 episodes of tinkering, FOX pulled the plug. Fans, however, can at least seek solace in the fact that FOX's cable arm has just transferred the show to its coaxial coast-to-coast. Starting this Sunday, reruns of the "X-Files" off-shoot can be seen on the FX cable channel.

"Millennium" follows the adventures of Frank Black (craggy silver screen star Lance Henriksen), a retired FBI profiler who moves his happy family from Washington, D.C., to the quiet suburbs of Seattle. Before he can even begin to enjoy his newfound suburban bliss, Frank finds himself recruited by the Millennium Group, a mysterious organization of former law enforcement agents committed to battling a growing wave of weird crime as the new millennium approaches.

At first, many criticized the show for its dour attitude and "serial killer of the week" storyline. It was a valid criticism. Desperate to halt the second season ratings slide, several "X-Files" regulars jumped ship in an attempt at spin control. By the end of the second season, the show's creators went whole horror hog, bumping off Frank's wife (the underused Megan Gallagher) and placing the world on the brink of apocalypse. Unfortunately, the show's third season all but ignored this ballsy end-of-the-world scenario, teamed Frank up with a sexy female partner (shades of "X-Files") and went for more routine cop show storylines. Like "X-Files," "Millennium" soon attempted to leaven its grim atmosphere with a rare "humor" episode. Demons played poker, KISS dropped by and pulp novelist Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly) showed up fresh from his "X-Files" gig. Despite such experiments, "Millennium" died an ignominious death earlier this year and was replaced by the Peter Horton horror series "Brimstone" (which tanked in less than a season).

While the quality on "Millennium" tends to vary wildly from ep to ep, there are plenty of creepy shows to be savored throughout the series' 67 completed shows. Amid broadcast television's weekly ratings race, "Millennium" never really got the chance to find its voice. (Was it an "X-Files" spin-off? Silence of the Lambs rip-off? Cop show? Horror series?) Perhaps in cable syndication, it will at least have the chance to find its audience.


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