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Monday, September 25, 2023

We may not have gay marriage or a cure for cancer, but we do have at least one thing we've all been clamoring for: a television series spin-off of the "Terminator" film franchise.

And for that, we are thankful.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the films, here's a quick rundown: In the future, the robots have taken over and decimated the human race, whose only savior is John Connor.

Also, at some point, amidst all the post-apocalyptic chaos, someone invented time travel, so the robots send cyborg assassins (terminators) to the past to kill Connor's mother, Sarah, and in the sequels, a young John Connor.

The new series, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" takes place after "T2" and effectively ignores the events in "T3" much to nobody's chagrin. Sarah Connor (Lena Heady) and John Connor (Thomas Dekker) are still on the run, constantly concocting new identities in new places to be on the safe side.

Just when John Connor is settling in a new school, a terminator posing as a substitute teacher tries to kill him. He's saved by Cameron (Summer Glau of "Firefly" and "Serenity: The 10th Character"), a good terminator posing as a classmate, and they're back on the run again.

The first episode doesn't make it clear, but it takes place in 1999 in order to account for the time line of the films.

To rectify this, the show employs perhaps one of the most gloriously stupid plot devices ever seen by human eyes: the heroes break into a bank vault where people from the future have stashed a bunch of time machine controls into the safe deposit boxes.

Naturally, the gang travels to the year 2007 to keep it from being a boring, stuffy 1999-period piece (not that it was noticeable, anyway).

In that moment, "Sarah Connor" establishes itself as unintentional comedy at its best, which has become the main draw of the show. If it's not lines like "my father doesn't sell insurance - he's dead," then it's Glau's remarkably deadpan delivery as a martial arts killing machine, all of which amounts to a less interesting version of her role as River Tam in "Firefly."

What's really surprising about a TV show based on an incredibly cinematic series of films is how much it feels like an old-school TV show.

Like '80s series "The Incredible Hulk" and "The A-Team," it has the characters going from town to town, having life-changing effects on whoever they meet, while various authorities chase them around. What's also surprising is how visually uninteresting it is.

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Where recent genre shows like "LOST" and "Battlestar Galactica" are well-directed and nice to look at, there's nothing spectacular about "Sarah Connor," putting it well into the territory of "Heroes," right down to the poor (even for TV), computerized special effects. At least "Sarah Connor" doesn't have to make people fly around unconvincingly.

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