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The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series DVD Review

The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series

October 7, 2005

Director: Rob Bowman, Bryan Spicer, Richard Compton, ,
Starring: Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Stephen Snedden, Zuleika Robinson, George Coe, Stephen Toblowsky, Mitch Pileggi, Tony Denison, ,

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DVD Review

It must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. Take the three most popular supporting characters from The X-Files and give them their own show. A few episodes aired before it promptly disappeared from our TV screens. So, what happened? Had Chris Carter and the network miscalculated on the size of The Lone Gunmen’s fanbase, or was it a case of too little going a long way? What made the Gunmen work was that we were subjected to their quirky, entertaining ways in small, concentrated doses. Are these characters rich and interesting enough to carry their own show? Obviously, mainstream audiences didn’t think so.

For the uninitiated, the Lone Gunmen are Byers (Harwood), the buttoned-down type who always wears a suit and is respectable looking; Frohike (Braidwood), the short, balding one and the gadget man prone to bouts of inappropriate clumsiness; and Langly (Haglund), the tall, lanky one who is an ace computer hacker and always seen wearing a t-shirt of one of his favourite rock ‘n’ roll bands (usually the Ramones). They are underground conspiracy theorists dedicated to sticking it to The Man by revealing The Truth to the public. The only problem is that they kind of suck at it. To offset the quirkiness of the Gunmen, Jimmy Bond (Snedden) joins their group and brings a normal sense of naivete to the table along with a goofy, irrepressible quality that makes him the object of a lot of the show’s humour.

In the pilot episode’s prologue, our boys break into a high-tech company building that playfully parodies the famous CIA building break-in from the Mission: Impossible movie. Alas, all three of them aren’t half the superspy that Ethan Hunt is (the next episode’s opening goes on to skewer The Matrix). The conspiracy that our protagonists uncover in this episode eerily anticipates the events of 9/11 but posits that the U.S. government is behind it in order to beef up the arms race. Byers and his father end up on a plane that is being controlled, via computer, to fly into the World Trade Towers.

In “Madam, I’m Adam,” the Gunmen help a man (Tobolowsky) who comes home one day to find that his whole life is gone. Strange people are living in his house and the neighbours don’t know him anymore. He explains that he’s from a parallel reality and brought to ours by aliens. FBI Assistant Walter Skinner (Pileggi) from The X-Files makes an appearance in “The Lying Game” and becomes a suspect in the murder of Byers’ old college roommate. The deceased’s wife hires the Gunmen to find out who’s responsible.

Not surprisingly, The Lone Gunmen has a lighter tone than The X-Files. It’s more playful in nature but does take itself seriously as well. These guys seemed pretty wacky on The X-Files but on their own show they cross paths with people even stranger than they are: a poacher who deals in grizzly bear gallbladders, a tango-dancing smuggler and a secret government terrorist organization. The show is well made but missing that certain quality that made their appearances in The X-Files so memorable. The satire that they represented, being even more paranoid than Mulder, worked well on that show but is missing on their own. It’s almost too much of a good thing.

Special Features:

On disc one there is an audio commentary on the pilot episode by director Rob Bowman, cinematographer Robert McLachlan and writers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban. They didn’t have much time to figure out the visual look of the show. They talk about trying to find the right tone and didn’t want to have the supernatural element from The X-Files, instead placing an emphasis on conspiracies. Finally, they address the similarities to 9/11 and how much things have changed since then.

There is also an audio commentary on “Bond, Jimmy Bond” by the Gunmen themselves, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, and Bruce Harwood, along with director Bryan Spicer and actors Stephen Snedden and Zuleikha Robinson. As one would expect, this is a spirited track as the Gunmen actors playfully make fun of each other and recount the occasional amusing anecdote about filming the episode.

Disc two features an audio commentary on “Tango de los Pistoleros” by Haglund, Braidwood, Harwood, writer Thomas Schnauz, Spicer, Snedden and Robinson. This is another rousing track as everyone jokes and recounts anecdotes from filming the episode.

The third disc includes an audio commentary on “All About Yves” by Shiban, Spotnitz, Gilligan and Spicer. They talk about how this was the last episode that aired and how it parodied The X-Files.

The last commentary is for The X-Files episode, “Jump the Shark,” that wrapped up all the loose threads of the Lone Gunmen series. Spotnitz, Gilligan and Shiban return to talk about their intentions for this episode to be an elegy to these characters and how their ultimate fate was decided.

“Defenders of Justice: The Story of The Lone Gunmen” traces the characters’ first appearance in “E.B.E” in the first season of The X-Files, to their own show to their demise on “Jump the Shark.” The writers dish some fascinating trivia in this solid extra. The characters almost died in the fourth season of The X-Files but Chris Carter spared their lives. The characters quickly became fan favourites and adored by many of the show’s writers as well. This is a good look at these characters, their legacy and how each episode came together.

Finally, there are some TV spots.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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