Unit 2 (UPN)
Review by Ernest Lilley
Miami Goth? GostBusters In Black? Chicago X-Files?
A hot set of wheels. A testy team of detectives protecting the city from evil. A sarcastic informant for a sidekick. Starsky, Hutch, and Huggy? Batman, Robin, and Alfred? Kirk, Spock and McCoy?
Nope, it's the detectives of Chicago's Special Unit 2. Gargoyles, Mummies and every other nightmare that kids have are real, but kept out of the public eye by elite units like Chicago Police's Special Unit 2. Homages abound in the setup for this campy crime-busting crew slated to replace UPN's ailing Level 9. Unfortunately, the action pack network is only replacing a Federal team of wannabe's with a Municipal one.
Detective Nicholas O'Malley (Michael Landes) is running on high-testosterone, and Officer Kate Alice Benson (Alexondra Lee) is one more in a long line of lethal, lovely, leggy leatherette lasses. Diana Rigg's Emma Peel still rules over the genre, despite cyberpunks discovery of the art form and though fun to look at, Ms. Lee provides no real challenge for the title. Danny Woodburn of Sienfeld plays a scene stealing sawed off sidekick and snitch, and we're all out to save the city and give the audience a few laughs while running down an assortment of "missing links" from gargoyles to mummies and the occasional monster in the lake.
It seems that Mankind has been sharing the Earth with an assortment of nightmare creatures since the dawn of time, and a variety of organizations have been working behind the scenes to keep them out of sight and us safe at night. The Illuminati, the Posse Commitates, Special Unit 2.
Our story opens with plain clothes cop Benson staking out the location of what she predicts will be the next in a series of abductions. After begging her to get a grip on her weird notions about abductions and a string of unbelievable sightings that have her Captain ready to have her committed, her partner decides to take the "L" home. Soon thereafter she finds herself in an abandoned building trying to save a little girl from a hooded vagrant that shakes the ground when he walks and doesn't slow down when she empties a collection of handguns into him.
As fast as you can say "watch Gargoyles on Saturday Mornings" Kate finds herself suspended from the force for telling tall tales and suddenly spirited away to the secret headquarters of Special Unit 2, Chicago's finest undercover police unit, dedicated to stamping out all manner of otherworldly beasties...but no Vampires. As unit Captain Page puts it. "The monsters of every child's nightmare, they're all real. Except Vampires. Complete and total fiction." Thank god.
The whole setup is extremely Men In Black, and it's a pity they don't have the little memory zapper, but rely on a gullible populace instead. The first episode spends it's time rolling out characters, including an exiled college professor (never try to publish information on "Links") who acts as their geek-boy expert. Gargoyles are only the curse of the week, but in a stunning bit of timing they discover that in 24 hours a major brood nest of the stone faced beasts will erupt over the windy city and humanity is invited for brunch.
I like the premise, most of the show's look, and a few of the characters. Unfortunately Kate isn't all that. Walking across the precinct parking lot she spots Nicholas and draws on him, thinking he's a bad guy, or at least a witness that can corroborate her story. A few more takes might have made her attempt to get a gun out of her holster look less painful. Throughout the show she's just too perky for the black outfits she wears and neither Lee or Landes can maintain the spark they show at first meeting.
The high energy rock soundtrack is a welcome distraction from the action, as are the special effects. There are lots of homage's stuck in here, consciously or not, and TV fans of the 60s will have little trouble recognizing the Man From Uncle Origins of the entrance to the secret headquarters of SU2.
What would a cop show be without cool cars? The Mod Squad had a Woody, Batman had the Batmobile, Sonny Crocket had a Ferrari and the Saint drove a Volvo 1800e. Landes and Lee do get hot wheels for the show, though they don't do much real driving with them. His: a modified Chrysler LHX with an overgrown hood scoop which takes an otherwise nice looking sedan and proclaims a total lack of taste. Hers: the cooler of the two, though it doesn't get the same airtime, Lee's driving an Isuzu Vehicross, which is an awesome cross between SUV and sports car that looks like more fun that the law should allow. Note the stock viper fangs in the grille. You know we're living in the future when shows can buy supercars like this off the showroom floor.
If you animated Special Unit 2 and put it on Saturday morning it wouldn't raise an eye. The question is whether or not it would open any.