Chris Carter’s Millennium Good Summer Viewing

Millennium
20th Century Fox
1996-1999
Three Season; available now on DVD
2881 minutes

For those who are X-Files fans, and even those who aren’t, Millennium is a worthwhile series that delves into the dark side of human nature and the supernatural. Created by Chris Carter, X-Files mastermind, I found this short-lived FOX series similar if not more intriguing and haunting than anything Mulder and Scully encountered.

Intended to be a series that foreshadowed the coming doom of the year 2000, Millennium attempts to show how the end of the millennium would affect people and cause irrationality and chaos to ensue.

The series stars Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, a family man who is a retired serial profiler. A serial profiler is someone who helps track down serial killers based on traits shown by other serial killers in the past. Black is approached by the mysterious Millennium Group who consults on cases involving unexplained phenomena and serial killers. While the majority of episodes play like typical investigative dramas like Bones or CSI, there is an element throughout involving ghosts, demons, angels, prophets, and other elements that cannot readily be explained.

Season One sets up the series premise and is the best of the three. This is mainly due to Chris Carter’s hands-on involvement with the series. The stories are dark, disturbing, and quite violent for 90s TV. Each episode draws the viewer in and keeps you watching.

Frank Black meets Millennium Group member Peter Watts in season one, who becomes his partner over the course of the series. Watts will look familiar to fans of Lost, since he’s played by Terry O’Quinn (John Locke). He’s got a moustache and hair, but as always, his performance is solid and engaging.

Season Two marks the absence of Chris Carter and the problems begin. Much like when J.J. Abrams left Lost to do films, so Millennium suffers from an identity crisis in its second season. Stories are a mix of the comic and the serious. More mythology of the Millennium Group is introduced (think The Dharma Initiative on Lost) and tragedy hit Frank Black on the family level. While there are clever and entertaining episodes present, Season Two lacks the consistency of the first season.

Season Three runs the gambit of dark, humorous, stunt casting, and other elements that are clear indicators that the network wants it gone, and the producers are trying to find an audience. Kiss makes an appearance in one episode, that’s how hard they tried to get people to watch. Alas, the series was cancelled before the year 2000, which probably was a good thing.

I love this series. The first season is by far the best. Two is watchable, and three drags at times, but is worth watching to see how the series wraps up. And there is a definite ending to the show. Frank Black pops up on X-Files a few seasons later to help Mulder and Scully, but by that time people were probably wondering who he was. This episode is on the final disc of Season Three.

Each season has its share of interesting special features, including interviews with cast and crew, documentaries on serial profiling, and commentary on selected episodes. If you’ve got time to kill toward the end of the summer and need a new show to watch, I highly recommend Millennium. It’s available through Netflix, Blockbuster, and Amazon. Oh, and you may want to get a nightlight in case you have nightmares.

Millennium: Season One – A; Season Two – B; Season Three – B-.

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