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Profiler, part of NBC's Saturday night "Thrillogy," lightens up and gets Jack--uh, why?

By Bill Frost

OCTOBER 26, 1998:  Cancellation fever has struck the networks: Fox has axed Costello, Holding the Baby, Getting Personal and Living in Captivity; CBS shut down The Brian Benben Show; and UPN has killed off Mercy Point after only two airings.

The producers of Mercy Point — a hospital drama set in outer space, mind you — were reportedly upset, saying that they developed the show as a companion to Star Trek: Voyager, not Clueless and Moesha, two sitcoms that apparently don't qualify as science fiction. Sure, Mercy Point would have done so much better on Wednesday night than Tuesday.

Programming a night's worth of shows to compliment each other can be tricky business — just ask NBC. Their Saturday night "Thrillogy" — a play on trilogy, duh — has been the wrong kind of nightmare since they launched it in 1996. Then, the trio of thrillers consisted of Dark Skies, The Pretender and Profiler. Dark Skies, about aliens terrorizing Earth in the 1960s, was hyped to high heaven as the second coming of The X-Files, while the other two were left to ride its coattails. Due to low ratings and — according to some conspiracy theorists — the fact that it was the only show in the Thrillogy not owned in part or wholly by NBC, Dark Skies was canceled at the end of the season. The upside? Costar Jeri Ryan went on to save UPN's Voyager as Borg babe Seven of Nine.

In 1997, NBC tried to restore the Thrillogy with Sleepers, an iffy sci-fi drama about dream research — it lasted one episode. The 7 p.m. slot was filled for the rest of the season with various unused pilots and repeats of The Pretender, which is easily the best show of the Thrillogy.

This season, NBC has obviously given up on the whole concept, plugging the painfully bad (not pleasurably bad like NightMan, which airs opposite) Wind on Water into the Saturday night lead-off position. If Wind lasts longer than Mercy Point, or even a breath mint, those producers may have a case against UPN.


Saturday night special: Ally Walker stars as FBI agent Samantha Waters in NBC's Profiler.
Fortunately, it's business as usual on the uber-cool Pretender this year: Jarod's still on the loose, the Centre and micro-skirted menace Miss Parker are still on his trail, and the identity of Jarod's father may finally be revealed this Saturday. Yeah, right — we're not fallin' for that one again.

The biggest "yeah, right" in Profiler's first two years was the capture of serial killer Jack of All Trades by FBI agent Samantha Waters (Ally Walker) and the Violent Crimes Task Force. See, Jack killed Sam's husband years ago, and she also happens to be a forensic psychologist with an intuitive gift that allows her to visualize a crime through the eyes of both the killer and the victim — got all that? Kind of like Frank Black on Millennium, except she looks more like a model than a pottery project gone wrong.

Sam and the VCTF have tracked Jack for two seasons and he, in turn, has stalked Sam. When Sam finally found love again last year, Jack had his protegé Jill (Tracy Lords) drill the poor sap — with an actual power drill! Hundreds of times! Critics have whined that Profiler is too violent and creepy ...h, didn't anyone catch the name of the FBI team Sam works for? Violent Crimes Task Force? Serial killers? Ringin' any bells here?

On last week's third-season opener, Jack was finally nabbed for real. This Saturday, Sam and Jack get to go through the whole Silence of the Lambs confrontation routine before she and the series head off into kinder, gentler territory: less creepy, less violent, no Jack. Profiler, along with The Pretender, has owned the Saturday night 18-34 female audience up until now. With Dr. Quinn gone, NBC apparently wants to nail the door shut by lightening the mood.

Of course, what made the show unique was its dark tone: Jack's cryptic anagrams, Sam's blue-tinted visions of murder, the VCTF's blindingly-fast computers that can assemble zillions of bits of data instantly but can't trace the ISP of Jack's twisted website (www.nbc.com/thrillogy/profiler/jacksgame if you're up for it), Sam's smart pantsuits — what's Profiler going to be now? A Lifetime movie-of-the-week? Homicide with better gear? Jesse (single mom, perfect blonde hair, NBC employee) with a more interesting job? The possibilities are senseless.

The best thing that could happen to Saturday night's Thrillogy would be a Pretender/Profiler crossover episode: Sam and Jarod spring Jack from prison and set him loose on the island of Wind on Water with a power drill and a porn star — the rest takes care of itself.


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