Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Harsh Realm The Ultimate Mind Game - The Complete Series |
Three-disc Collector's Edition
Actors: Scott Bairstow, D.B. Sweeney, Terry O'Quinn, Rachel Hayward, Max Martini
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
The virtual world becomes a dangerous reality in Chris Carter's Harsh Realm. It's the ultimate mind game when a soldier testing a military war game discovers that the only way out? is to kill the top player! The complete s... more »
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Potential not realized as series is cancelled too soon
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 09/06/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Harsh Realm" was meant to be Fox's Great White Hope for the 1999 season. Created by "The X-Files" Chris Carter, the show borrowed pages from "The X-Files" and "The Matrix. General Santiago (O'Quinn) has taken over a virtual reality program named Harsh Realm. Originally developed by the military to give a realistic simulation of how the world would react to a terrorist strike, the military has sent in a number of operatives to take out the elusive Santiago but none have returned. Lt. Hobbes (Bairstow) plans on leaving the military in a month after serving for five years in war torn areas around the world. A hero for saving a friend at the expense of his own life, Hobbes is asked by his C.O. (Henriksen) to go into the game and beat Santiago bringing it to an end. He's told nothing else about Harsh Realm or about the "occupants" that exist there. What he finds is a virtual reality simulation of the real world. With the help of Mike Pinnochio (D. B. Sweeney) Hobbes must try and complete his mission and find a way out of Harsh Realm to his fiancé (Samantha Mathis) and the life he left behind.
Critically drubbed and abandoned by its audience within the first week of its premiere, "Harsh Realm" was a rare failure for Carter as it was cancelled after only airing three episodes. Carter and Fox also faced legal action when James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette the creators of the comic book series "Harsh Realm" sued Fox and won recognition that their work was the basis for Carter's series. While the basic premise and title were similar enough to suggest that Carter had been influenced by the comic book series, "Harsh Realm" the TV series departed radically from the initial premise of Hudnall and Paquette's creation.
It's sad, really, as the show has its moments and the supporting performances of D. B. Sweeney and Terry O'Quinn make even the weakest episode shine. Carter's initial premise had as much promise as another abandoned Fox show ("Sliders") in that it would have allowed him to examine many different issues in an "alternate" reality. "Harsh Realm" doesn't pick up steam or break any new ground like "The X-Files" or even "Millennium" did but the story potential for the series was great.
Although grainy newsreel like style used in "Black Hawk Down" bookends the first episode, the transfer is far from "harsh". The solid blacks and vivid colors are brilliantly realized and provide a sharp contrast to the gloomy scenes set in the virtual reality world. Although the box says the series is presented in 1.33:1 full screen mode, it's actually in what appears to be a 1.76:1 widescreen mode. It's evident how expensive the series was from the very first frame of footage. The stark sequences set in the former Sarevjo have epic big screen production values and the fine detail set in the destroyed city looks terrific. The 5.1 soundtrack, unlike most shows from the same time frame, uses the format pretty effectively. The result is that you feel like ducking whenever a helicopter swings by or someone shoots off a machine gun. The sound has considerable presence and depth as well.
The three disc set features all nine episodes of the series so, needless to say, there's not a whole lot in the way of extra features. On the other hand, Fox has priced this boxed set accordingly. The two featurettes mimic those of the "Millennium" set. We get a standard behind-the-scenes featurette about the creation and production of the series. I got the impression that Fox produced this while the series was shooting in anticipation of eventually releasing it to DVD. There's also a clever, well thought out featurette on the creation of the show's main titles much like a similar featurette for "Millennium".
Chris Carter and director Sackheim provide a single commentary track on the pilot. It's rather interesting as Carter discusses some of his casting decisions in the commentary track as well as the inspiration of the series (while avoiding the painful topic of the lawsuit he and Fox faced). While supposedly the lawsuit had no bearing on the cancellation of the series, I'm sure that it helped contributed to tension between Carter and Fox thus hasting the untimely demise of the show. Unfortunately, none of these issues is discussed (although its understandable as to why). It's too bad that there's no commentary track by writers/producers John Shiban and Frank Spotniz. Like Carter, both are veterans of "The X-Files" and "Millennium" and their episodes are, like Carter's initial ones, real gems that offered much promise for this critically attacked series.
Although it certainly couldn't live up to "The X-Files" (or, for that matter, "Millennium") due to its short life, "Harsh Realm" demonstrates that a great premise isn't necessarily the best springboard for well written television. The episodes included here indicated that "Harsh Realm" had developed an interesting story arc. "Homicide: Life on the Street" and even "NYPD Blue" didn't offer much originality in the "premise" department. It was the striking writing and character development that made those series so memorable. The same could have occurred with "Harsh Realm". I'd suggest giving the series a chance despite the fact that the cliff ending ninth episode leaves the series unfinished and hanging.
A creator of the comic chimes in
J. D. Hudnall | Las Vegas, NV | 08/24/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was the writer of the Harsh Realm comic. I can tell you the lawsuit against the show had nothing to do with its cancellation.
The show premiered against the baseball playoffs in the dire Friday nights at nine time slot. The head of Fox TV at the time was really cancel happy as other people have noted, but I get the impression from talking to people behind the scenes that Carter and Fox were having run ins unrelated to our lawsuit.
Anyway, the show deviates from the comic in that the comic is set in the future and deals with pocket universes, not virtual reality. But the basic storyline is the same. Instead of a mad general hunted by a soldier, ala Apocalypse Now, my story dealt with a detective hired to find a missing teenager who went into a world designed to work like a medieval fantasy world. The teenager, it turns out, went native and became mad with power and was creating havoc in that world.
Anyway, we got the credits we wanted in our settlement. I don't hold any grudges and the show is halfway decent. It would have been a lot more interesting if they stuck to the comic, though."
Harsh Reality for Harsh Realm
shadowdoc | New York | 07/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chris Carter's third show was never allowed to develop from its short appearance due to a miserable marketing campaign on the part of the Fox network. I am a fan of Chris Carter's work, and had been eagerly awaiting the premiere of this show. Surprisingly, I had a difficult time trying to find out when the show would be premiering, since Fox was not promoting it. By accident, I tuned in on the night of the series premiere, and caught the tail end of the prologue. Fox claims that the numbers weren't there for the premiere, and cancelled the show after just three episodes. It's unrealistic to think that viewers would tune in when there's no advertisement for the show. As such Harsh Realm suffered from the harsh realities of marketing gone wrong.
I think Harsh Realm had another thing going against it: it was the replacement of Chris Carter's second series Millennium, which had started to develop a loyal fan base. Millennium was and still is a remarkable show, and I believe a lot of the fans, including myself, expected an equally remarkable show as a successor. So, at the beginning, Harsh Realm had big shoes to fill.
The series pilot was not the best of Chris Carter's work (except for the final scene of the episode, when the viewer realizes how widespread the problem is), though the story had only just started. The two subsequent episodes continued to reveal the plot that was introduced in the pilot. Only after the third episode "Inga Fossa" is there enough told to proceed to the first stand-alone episode. Unfortunately, until the FX cable network debuted these episodes a year later did anyone get the chance to see the remaining 6 episodes of the series.
I have seen some of the remaining six episodes that aired later on FX. They are very good in production quality, and the plot device of a virtual reality landscape allows the writers a lot of creative freedom to place the characters in very unusual circumstances. Perhaps, the best of them is the eighth episode "Cinncinnati", where the audience finally gets a real taste for how evil and committed the series' villain, Omar Santiago, is. His quest for supreme domination and the establishment of his fascist society shows its true colors.
The two main characters: Hobbes (Scott Bairstow) and Pinnochio (D.B. Sweeney) are essentially polar opposites. Hobbes is the good all-American soldier, which for the most part makes him a caricature of sorts, though he does have some shining moments. Pinnochio is not a bad guy, he's honorable, but he's also jaded and his loyalties are questionable at times. This makes him a much more interesting character than Hobbes, and it is a shame we didn't get the chance to see his character develop. As for the other players: Florence (the mute healer/soldier), Sophie (Hobbe's fiance), Inga Fossa (the duplicitous informant), Waters (Hobbes former friend turned enemy) and Omar Santiago (a Hitler-esque fascist dictator)...they make their contributions here and there, but we never got to learn too much about them. The only real exception being Santiago who gets fleshed out very well in "Cinncinnati".
This was not one Chris Carter's finest moments, but it may have developed into something special if given the time. Millennium, too, had a rocky start, but found it's loyal viewers. Perhaps, on DVD, it will be given the opportunity to shine for the first time. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing these episodes on DVD, and the various extras provided within the boxset.
"It's just a game...""
Wasted potential, thanks Fox
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 10/09/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Harsh Realm, created by X-Files and Milennium creator Chris Carter, was just one of many prime time sci-fi dramas that died a quick death on Fox. Three episodes were aired when it originally premiered in 1999, with the other six episodes aired on Fox's FX cable network the following year. The sad part about Harsh Realm, is that there was plenty of promise and potential, but none of it ever got to get off the ground thanks to yet another brilliant idea from the bigwigs at Fox. The story revolves around Army Lieutenant Tom Hobbes (Scott Bairstow), called back into action to supposedly test run a virtual reality war game called Harsh Realm. He becomes trapped inside, with hundreds of others who identify him as the "savior" they have been awaiting. Plenty of comparisons to the Matrix (which was released earlier that year) could be a turn off to some, but Harsh Realm was never given the chance to take off like it could have. The rest of the cast includes D.B Sweeney as a fellow trapped soldier, Milennium alumnus Terry O'Quinn as deranged Harsh Realm dictator Santiago, and Samantha Mathis as Tom's estranged fiance. Now that Harsh Realm is on DVD, it's worth checking out, and we can thank Fox once again for squandering good potential (Firefly anyone?)."