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Alan Cumming and Zooey Deschanel Alan Cumming as Glitch and Zooey Deschanel as DG in the "Tin Man" miniseries on the Sci Fi channel. (Sci Fi Channel / Paul Michaud)
Television Review

In Sci Fi update, she's not in Oz anymore

Email|Print| Text size + By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / December 1, 2007

There's something so not on about the 1939 version of "The Wizard of Oz," don't you think? For one thing, Judy Garland is too fresh-faced, and her character's name, Dorothy Gale, has far too many letters. And then there are no cool action sequences anywhere, no digitized terrorizing from the Wicked Witch of the West. I mean, who buys a $3,000 TV set to watch a guy in a lion suit slide around like a kid in Dr. Denton's. Plus, no leather outfits on the armies of Oz? What?

I was very glad, then, to see that Sci Fi and executive producers Robert Halmi Jr. and Sr. agree with me, and that they have made a much-needed "Wizard of Oz" reboot called "Tin Man." A three-part miniseries starting tomorrow night at 9, "Tin Man" is finally going to liberate American culture from the clutches of that musty movie that always hogs top spots on the best-ever lists. Now, instead of a tired field of poppies, we have the more sophisticated "field of the Pa-pay," which is swarmed by fleet monsters out of "Jurassic Park." That's the Baum!

"Tin Man" stars Zooey Deschanel as a young waitress named DG. (Clever! The only thing that might have been more clever: Orothy-day Ale-gay.) DG's workaday world is filmed in color - don't worry - but her existence is gray and Goth-tinged. "There has to be more to life than this," she moans to her parents, before they all get swept into the tornado that drops them in the vicinity of Oz. Wait, I mean "The O.Z.," which stands for the Outer Zone, which recalls TV shows by Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling as well as "The O.C." That's three, three, three all-time TV classics in one very subtle reference.

DG eases on down the "old brick road" with Glitch (Alan Cumming), a guy with a zipper on his head, out of which his brain has been removed because he knew too much. Sure, the "Tin Man" writers - Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle - could have called him Scarecrow, but what self-respecting Xbox 360-owning kid would understand such a nondigital-era word? So welcome to the O.Z., Glitch.

DG and Glitch pick up a fellow named Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough), who is an able ex-cop with vengeance on his mind after having seen his family tortured. He's the tin man, of course, but don't call him that because . . . just because. And then they encounter Raw (Raoul Trujillo), a human-wolverine mix - not a lion, in case that's what you were thinking - who is skittish since he has been much abused. Yes, the fab four all have issues that need resolving before they can move forward with their lives. Perhaps the great and powerful Dr. Phil has room on his schedule?

Lots of fantastic adventures await them, as DG tries to protect the O.Z. from permanent darkness while searching for her roots. (Checking ancestry.com would have been cheating,) They meet the Mystic Man, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and they do battle against the Sorceress Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson), her fabulously clad army of henchmen, and the Wicked Witch of the Dark, who aims to destroy the royal line of Glinda. Come out, come out, wherever you are, Wicked Witch; DG's in the house, and she's not happy.

Seriously, though: "Tin Man" is that crazy dream of "The Wizard of Oz" you might have had after a too-long night of surfing the Internet and playing video games. It's a dour retelling of the L. Frank Baum story, and it just keeps sinking further and further into pointless thematic complexity and visual density. A test of viewer endurance, this effects-bound miniseries is a hollow tin man in need of a beating heart.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit boston.com/ae/tv/blog/.

Tin Man

Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Richard Dreyfuss, Neal McDonough, Raoul Trujillo, Kathleen Robertson, Alan Cumming

On: Sci Fi

Time: Tomorrow night, 9-11

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