WITCHBLADE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (7 DVDs) (WB)When it comes to life, there’s just no such thing as a redo. Way back when, before Turner decided its TNT channel should be all-comedy, it tried to go toe-to-toe with the likes of FX and Spike. One of its more daring dramas was to make a series out of Top Cow’s Witchblade. Yes, it wasn’t like the comic. Budget considerations surely played into cutting out some of the more fantastic elements of Michael Turner and the Cow's boss man Marc Silvestri. Being a regular cable station, this also cut out some of the more sexy elements. That didn’t mean this was a bad show. Hardly. This was due to a few things. For starters, yes it was toned down, but it still felt true to the basic comic. Having Silvestri as one of the series writers probably did help a lot that way. Second, it had some darn solid casting, headed off by Yancy Butler as Sara Pezzini, the then bearer of that ancient ornery ornament. Finally, it had some solid, sometimes spectacular, camerawork going for it, especially for cable just short of a decade ago (CGI really has come a long way in the last ten years, hasn’t it?). I would also be remiss if I didn’t go a little deeper into Butler’s performance. With that rough, sexy voice, seriously athletic figure and large eyes, she probably was as close as an actress could have ever gotten to play Pez. Her past history working on films by John Woo (Hard Target) and John Badham (Drop Zone) had turned her into a more-than-capable action hero. She was even familiar with fantasy TV, having previously starred in the cult favorite Mann & Machine. But her performance also had a vulnerability that most tough girl actors that wasn’t seen too often. Whether it was losing her first partner, her father or one of the many men she loved, we sympathized with Pez and felt her grief. Butler did a great job of humanizing her character and this did wonders for making the series carry. Not that she was alone. The cast included some great support in the form of Will Yun Lee (partner #1 Danny Wu), David Chohachi (later partner Jake McCarthy), Anthony Cistaro (Kenneth Irons), and Eric Etebari (Nottingham). Yes, some of the their characters deviated a lot from the originals, but it soon got to the point where it didn’t matter. We fans got to enjoy the series for what it was, a solid mix of cop drama with dark, gothic elements. Then it jumped the shark at the end of the first season/first episode of the second. Rather than come clean with a solid denouement, the series resets to the pilot episode and starts all over again. While the following episodes had their moments, it would never be the same for me. As said before, there’s no such thing as a redo. On the other hand, there are those who seem to love the second season as much as the first. When the show got yanked after the second season, oddly enough because Butler was suffering from alcohol/drug abuse problems, NOT ratings, there was a major hue and cry over it being pulled. That being the case, the fans should not be disappointed with this collection. Besides coming with a handy little fold-out guide, its extra content includes interviews with such principles as Butler, Silvestri, Turner, showrunner Ralph Hemecker and several others. The bonus “Gabriel’s Philosophical Insights” can get a tad hokey, but are usually short and, quite frankly a good idea, optional. Some commentaries might have been nice, but I’m not complaining. You get your money’s worth. The concept of the Witchblade also seems to be holding its own. The anime series produced by Gonzo and distributed by FUNimation was one of the top sellers of last year. There apparently is also a movie being made, without Butler, slated for 2009. Michael Rymer (Queen of the Damned, Battlestar Galactica) is slated to direct. So while there’s no such thing as a redo, there is sometimes room for nostalgia. I get the feeling this show could have turned into a franchise much like Galactica or Stargate if it wasn’t for Butler’s bad habits (which she still seems to have issues with). Enjoy this series for what it was. You can always easily skip the second season if it annoys you as much as it did me.
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