Special Sub-Topic: Yours Truly, Absentmindedly
|Let's start somewhere out there. A sleek, mostly white, shape streaks through space. We get to zoom in and see that it is carrying some humanoid crew and passengers (most of them actually human) in jumpsuits combining black with one of the colors red, yellow or blue. During the course of the show, we get to see another being able to appear and disappear in a flash and the spaceship is even able to separate into two pieces! Oh, yeah: The flashy being assumes the role of judge and picks the crew's bald and bold leader as the defendant in a mock trial happening in some non-reality. What show have I been seeing?|
Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Star Trek: The Next Generation", with the excellent Patrick Stewart as the lead character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, heralded the small-screen rebirth of Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" of the 1960s. Far more successful than its classic predecessor, "The Next Generation" ran for seven seasons and 178 episodes before coming to a planned and satisfying closure that even picked up many motives from the pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" (the episode I have been describing) again.
|It all starts out as innocent high school drama: A class is on a field trip to the zoo and some of its students get heckled by others. A few kids disappear into a locked-down hyena house and reappear somewhat changed - not so much in appearance but in behavior, acting ferally and cruelly, even going so far as eating the school's piglet mascot and then, not satiated, the principal. Ultimately some other students subdue the cannibals and drag them back to the hyenas to reverse whatever caused their behavior. What show's sixth episode was this?|
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Being one of the earliest episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", this installment "The Pack" had all the features of the series, mixing the typical teenagers' high school problems with the supernatural and evil. It also, like many other episodes of the series, took a main character to the dark side, this time through a demonic possession, in this case Xander, played by Nicholas Brendon.
|I am not even trying to summarize the plot on this one because it obviously takes some knowledge of the whole series to understand what was going on, but what I remember of this episode, set at Christmastime, was the Titanic floating in space, reconstructed as some kind of interstellar cruise ship and a man using, among all things, an old British police call booth (like one of those red phone booths, but blue) as a means of transportation. Which series' 2007 Christmas special has made its way into my viewing afternoon? |
Doctor Who. "Voyage of the Damned" was an instant smash hit for the Doctor Who series and for the BBC as a whole, ranking second in viewership among all of 2007's UK television programming. Unlike many "Doctor Who" episodes, it presented a mostly self-contained plot and could be watched on its own, but it also continued the June 2007 season finale "Last of the Time Lords" in several references and was thus fully appreciated only by those who have regularly been following the series. In this special episode (starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor), the Doctor's companion was Astrid Peth, played by singer-actress Kylie Minogue.
|Even without being a regular consumer of television content, I had heard about the controversial season finale I saw next. The plot, set in Texas and centered around an extremely rich and ruthless businessman running a large family-owned oil company, was not really understandable to me since it represented just one part of a continued narrative, but it did involve the entire office floor of the oil company going up in a major explosion. What I did recognize however was the final scene: One of the female cast members gets out of bed, goes to take a shower and expects to see her husband there - but not the one that had been killed a full year ago! Which series did include this most unusual "resurrection"?|
Dallas. In a highly unusual and controversial plot twist, the 1986 season finale from "Dallas", called "Blast from the Past" removed the entire eighth season's worth of episodes from the official timeline of the show to facilitate the return of actor Patrick Duffy who had left the show a year earlier and whose character, Bobby Ewing, had subsequently been written out by killing him off in a bloody car accident. Not having had the liberty of the science fiction and fantasy genres to stage a magical or time-traveling explanation, the producers decided they would rather declare the entire season to have been only a vivid and long dream by one of the characters and thus voided the complete set of 31 episodes, returning the timeline to a point in the seventh season finale and thus reviving the character.
|I am not going to summarize any of the plot of the next two episodes I saw because scenes from family life in a small town could be any of several dozen daytime soap operas. However, the first episode I saw was a black and white 15 minute segment from 1952 and the second was a 60 minute show from 2009. If I now tell you both episodes belonged to the same series, you have enough information to identify it. Which series is it?|
Guiding Light. With a broadcast history of 72 years - 15 years as a radio-only show from 1937 to 1952, then four years as a simultaneous radio and television production and finally 53 more years of television-only running, "Guiding Light" is the current record holder for the longest-running drama production on TV. (It will likely be passed as the record holder by "As the World Turns" in 2013 when that show is due to begin its 58th television year.) In total, the show produced and aired 15,762 episodes during its unprecedented run.
|The next episode I watched was also a black and white segment. After a rather psychedelic opening sequence, we join in a strange investigation: A commercial DC-3 airplane has landed safely (which would not be a reason to investigate) with no crew or passengers aboard (which would). When the three investigators note mismatches in details of their observation (each sees a different seat color and tail number), the head investigator decides that the plane is an illusion and proves it by holding his arm into the running propeller. The plane promptly disappears, but so do his two colleagues. It is finally revealed that the ghost plane resembles one that disappeared and was presumed crashed years ago. Which series, also immortalized in a successful pinball machine and a Walt Disney World thrill ride, is this episode from?|
The Twilight Zone. In spite of its rather low picture quality and black and white format, Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" (here represented by its third season episode "The Arrival") still has a substantial fan base and its original 1960s episodes still make for popular late night reruns. The mysterious, spooky events of the series often deal with disappearances or ghostly reappearances and are usually only partially resolved, leaving the ultimate truth behind the story to the imagination of the viewer. This mystery feature along with the high quality and vivid storytelling of the series' scripts keep "The Twilight Zone" alive even 50 years after its original airing. The Walt Disney World ride "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" is a multiple-drop free-fall tower themed around a ghostly hotel elevator with random launch and drop sequences, making no two rides exactly the same; the "Twilight Zone" pinball game (released 1993) is the second most successful pinball table in history.
|The next episode I saw began just like many other crime stories: A man walks through the dark woods and is clobbered to death. When, next day, coroners examine the body, they uncover a small chip embedded in his wrist, obviously an office security door opener. The victim is identified as a computer nerd and hacker with quite some social problems, including spying on all his colleagues and, as the analysis of the piece of scrap metal used in the killing reveals, a fixation for explosives. The episode's focus on lab and forensics work continues with some body fluid analysis identifying an intimate partner of the victim. We also see the victim's original plans for a quite explosive scheme to rid the company safe of its valuables and, in the final scene, the victim's partner in crime (and killer) executes that plan in a rather unsuccessful and fatal way. Set against the glitzy backdrop of a major vacation resort famous for one specific adults-only activity, this episode was from which series?|
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The episode I watched was "Working Stiffs", a 2009 installment from the original Las Vegas-based incarnation of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation". Focusing more on the forensic efforts of the crime solving specialists than on the field work and suspect interviews favored by most other crime-based series, this series has brought about two spin-offs set in Miami and New York respectively. In 2002, it became America's most watched television show. Its viewer range and popularity is such that a single 30-second commercial in this series cost over $250,000 in 2008. It has been criticized for the inaccurate portrayal of forensic work as well as for gratuitous violence (in the episode mentioned above, the prospective safe-cracker died with the blown-off safe door essentially splitting him in half), but neither problem seems to affect the series' ongoing success.
|After so much suffering, I was longing for some healing and indeed found a medical drama - in fact, the 331st and last episode of a long-running series. Set in a hospital, we are seeing a large number of patients admitted, with varying outcomes. The first patient we see is a teenage girl with acute alcohol poisoning, then a terminally ill AIDS patient, an elderly woman with a broken wrist, and a mother delivering premature twins. The string of single patients with ailments ranging from small to fatal continues until the next night when a full disaster protocol is invoked: An industrial explosion has claimed at least eight casualties, but we never get to see the resolution of that event. Which medical drama's thrilling finale have I been watching?|
ER. Conceived and written by Michael Crichton, himself a fully trained medical doctor, "ER" ("Emergency Room") was based on its creator's experiences as a medical intern. It became America's longest running prime-time medical series, running for fifteen complete seasons from 1994 to 2009. Due to its creator's medical expertise, the level of medical realism in the show has always been very high and it did not shy away from showing the many adverse outcomes possible in modern medicine. Dealing with death is a commonplace occurrence for the doctors, nurses, patients and patients' relations in "ER" and the characters are also shown with their human fallacies and problems instead of the heroic portraits seen in other hospital dramas. The final episode's ending underlines the realism focus of the series - instead of some high-note, happy ending, we get an emergency protocol, several patients are delivered in various states of injury, triage begins and then, the episode and the series just end - underlining that the work in a hospital is never done.
|It seems that, as the night got later, series finales were a dime a dozen because right after the previous medical drama, I got to see another, this time taken from a legal drama-comedy centered around and named for a quite stunning female lawyer. In this episode, we see her resigning from the firm she worked for (whose name, incidentally, includes an animal and a place to keep an animal, but not the one named) and the reactions of the various people involved. A moving rendition of "My First, My Last, My Everything" brings closure to the plot. Which legal beauty has just announced her move from Boston to New York?|
Ally McBeal. The law firm of Cage, Fish and Associates is the backdrop setting of "Ally McBeal", a series combining legal drama, romantic comedy and a healthy dose of relationship worries into a recipe for success. Propelled to rating heights also because of the stellar performance of Calista Flockheart in the title role of the quite promiscuous but also professional young Harvard law graduate, the series lasted for 5 seasons and a total of 112 episodes. The show might have lasted longer had not several actors withdrawn from participation prior to the fifth and final season. The loss of a significant portion of the main characters resulted in the loss of a quarter of the show's viewership and its subsequent cancellation in May 2002.
|I must have fallen asleep during a commercial break because when I next looked at the screen, the sun was rising and I was looking at an animated feature. The episode I was watching was from the original incarnation of the series and the main characters were mostly identified by their colors: black, pink, blue, yellow and red. The episode I watched, however, saw a sixth color being introduced - a green character, every bit a match for the other five and evil. It does not look good for our heroes who have to retreat to a damaged command center. The episode ends as a cliffhanger, but I've seen enough. I finally push the "off" button, cutting short the end credits for which series?|
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The "Power Rangers" franchise is different from most television series projects in that, apart from the first three seasons broadcast as "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", each season was its own series with different settings, characters and adventures. What remains constant, however, are the existence of the Rangers as a group and their identification via colors, with red, blue and yellow being used in all 15 series up to 2009, although in many seasons, the Rangers do carry an additional moniker, creating titles such as "Yellow Galaxy Ranger". The franchise has also spawned two theatrical releases and a huge selection of toys. The evil Green Ranger (as seen introduced in "Green With Evil, part 1: Out of Control", by the way, later, after causing the heroes a lot of harm, realized the wrong of his ways and switched sides, increasing the count of heroes to six, which brings our little quiz to a happy ending after all.
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