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The Invisible Man

(The Invisible Man)

July 08, 2002

After two failed attempts to by the major networks to do a successful series about an invisible man, cable TV got in on the act in the year 2000. Their version differs from the other two (as well as the movies) but often in the wrong ways. First, the invisible man is louse, a professional thief, named Darien Fawkes. Turns out he’s not very good thief either (they should have recruited Nyah Nordoff-Hall). After going down for the third time, Darien faces life in prison with no parole. His brother offers him a way out—let him put an experimental gland in his head that makes him invisible. This moron actually has to think over which is preferable--life in prison or becoming a sometime invisible man. I’m sure the idea was to give the show an "edge" and make the invisible man a "cool" and "macho" anti-hero. Given that his favorite expression is "Aw crap," I’d say they missed the boat on that one.

The gland in his head causes him to secrete a so-called, light-bending substance called "quicksilver." The first time he transforms is admittedly eye-opening, reminding me of the liquid metal effects used in Terminator 2. Because of the show’s budget limitations however, he fades out much quicker thereafter. I’ve always had problems with the notion of quicksilver. Since light travels at over 186,000 miles per second you need the gravitational pull of a black hole to alter it’s course. Also, it seems to me that bending light should distort the appearance of objects behind the invisible man, since the light rays would be hitting the objects at irregular angles. Assuming that light is being bent around Darien, how does he see? Quicksilver is a mercury-like liquid so why doesn’t the stuff wipe off on bad guys when he punches them? Why don't the soles of his shoes become slippery when covered by quicksilver? In one episode, quicksilver was cold enough to freeze the mechanism of a time bomb. Yet, he can be seen by thermal imaging goggles which register heat—go figure.

I could easily go on questioning how quicksilver allegedly works but why bother. What it really does is save money on special effects. You eliminate the need and hassle of showing objects being carried by invisible hands by simply having Darien make them invisible too. You don’t have to film challenging and time consuming disrobing scenes or show him unwrapping bandages to reveal an empty head. There is no need to come up with creative ways to maintain the star’s identity. More importantly, Darien gets to keep on his clothes. Consequently, he can enjoy all the advantages of being invisible without any of the hardships that Jack Griffin faced. To pay homage to HG Wells, however, Darien will go mad without regular injections of quicksilver "counteragent" supplied by a no budget government agency. This supposedly forces Darien to work for these losers who handle foreign and domestic problems the FBI and CIA apparently care little about.

A better name for this series would have been "Vanishing Man," as Darien spends an awful lot of time in a very opaque state, bickering with that grouch of a partner he’s paired with—Bobby Hobbes. As a result, I often found myself cheering for the show’s recurring villains--Arnaud and Stark. I found them to be a lot smarter and more interesting than the guys chasing them. The Invisible Man was canceled following its second season because the ratings did not justify it’s high production costs.

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