| Science fiction has a long tradition of infinitely funded, ultimately organized, super-secret government agencies. See, for example, The Syndicate on The X-Files, the whatever-itís-called on Mission: Impossible, and so on. No expense is too great, and they always know where you are and what youíre doing. You just know the office coffeemaker in those places is a thousand-dollar espresso machine with Starbucks coffee beans.
It is a tribute to the creators of the Sci Fi Channelís new series, The Invisible Man, that instead of an efficient, organized, and rich government group, we instead have The Agency (yes, itís capitalized), which has lost most of its funding. Itís now part of the Fish & Game Department, and offices in what appears to be a rundown junior high school building. Itís Dr. No meets Dilbert, and youíre pretty sure theyíre speeding up their pulses with Folgers out of Styrofoam cups with poker hands on the sides.
But The Agency still has some pull. The two-hour pilot (June 9, 8:00 p.m.) introduces us to Darien Fawkes (a mildly familiar-looking Vincent Ventresca), a semi-successful thief, whoís gotten caught for the third time and now faces life in prison. His brother, a scientist with The Agency, offers him an out: take part in The Agencyís experiments and get a pardon. Darien learns, too late, that the experiment involves the implantation of a synthetic gland that allows him to secrete "quicksilver," some sort of invisibility-causing sweat stuff that makes the light go around him, not through. (Hey, at least they try to explain why his clothes are invisible too.)
Turns out quicksilver is addictive, so unless he gets a counteragent injection periodically, he turns into "a walking id." More helpful for plot development, this also makes it so he canít be invisible all the time without going nutty by way of beyond-Excedrin headaches. Even though all-id-all-the-time doesnít seem to get in the way of the success of, say, Sean Penn, itís a bad idea when the id-dude can also be invisible and do whatever he wants. So now Darienís stuck with The Agency, since they wonít let him have the counteragent unless he helps them.
Itís all stylishly shot and chock full oí pseudo pop culture references---Xena, Doogie Howser, Abba, etc.---and the writing is a definite level above most of what you see on Sci Fi ("Can you Star-69 reality, man?").
Itís hard to say where TIM will go from here. The first regular episode, "Catevari," (June 16 at 8:00) illustrates the showís X-Files-ish pretensions (loads of moral ambiguity, a former agent whose touch is poisonous...). It also introduces the requisite attractive woman (Shannon Kenny), Fawkesís "keeper," who injects the counteragent and keeps him in line. To Kennyís credit, so far we canít tell to whom sheís really loyal. We also get to learn more about Fawkesís too-broadly-drawn but funny partner, Hobbes (veteran character actor Paul Ben-Victor). Unfortunately, the episode introduces some continuity problems: The Agency suddenly appears better funded without explanation, and their tech stuff is much snazzier.
But, at least based on the tapes we got, TIM looks like itíll be a lot of fun. Now if only HoleCity could get some super-secret Agency funding....