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The Dresden Files -- An early look

by Brett Love, posted Jan 1st 2007 9:00AM
Paul BlackthorneWhen Battlestar returns with new episodes on the 21st it will be bringing along a new partner on the Sci Fi schedule, The Dresden Files. The show is based on the popular series of novels by Jim Butcher. Both follow the adventures of Chicagoan Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne, 24). His life is not like yours or mine, because Harry is a wizard.

But unlike that other wizard named Harry, in Mr. Dresden's world there are no boundaries separating the world of magic from the world of the everyday. Earning his living as a wizard-for-hire, he's the only one in the phone book, you can imagine that things don't always go so smoothly for Harry. A good many of the people that know of or find out about him dismiss him as a kook straight away, without investigating further. Interestingly, I think the show may have some of those same issues.

Joining Harry in his adventures is Lieutenant Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz, Nip/Tuck). With the dark forces of magic on the loose in the windy city, naturally there are going to be hard to explain crimes. Those fall on Murphy's desk. She's a tough, take no crap, broad that works hard to do the best job that she can. And she knows that sometimes doing the job means enlisting the help of Harry, even if there are those elements on the force that think him at best a con-man.

Valerie CruzAlso along for the ride is Murphy's partner, Kirmani (Raoul Bhaneja). He would be one of those that doesn't buy Harry's schtick. We also have Harry's "ghostlike confidant" Bob (Terrence Mann). I say it like that because I'm not entirely sure of the form Bob is going to take on the show. The preview copies didn't have finished effects, and the scenes with Bob were among those that were unfinished. For now, we'll just say that Bob is a very old, very wise, spirit that helps Harry out with advice on magic, and occasionally, other pursuits.

Coming later in the show, though not in the preview, is Morgan (Conrad Coats, The Sentinel). Morgan is an agent of the High-Council, which governs the realm of magic, and not exactly what you would call a fan of Harry.

Now that we have the characters, and the idea, the question is how does it work? For the most part, The Dresden Files is an episodic drama. Cases are started and concluded in the same episode, but there are elements of ongoing story that will carry through the season. Those could prove to be very interesting, but I don't think missing an episode, or seeing them out of order, is going to really throw anyone.

The writing of the show is good, once you accept the premise, which means that the show lives or dies on the work of the two leads. Fortunately, they are both really good. Paul Blackthorne isn't exactly what I was thinking when I first picked up The Dresden Files, but he's as close as anyone else I can think of. Valerie Cruz doesn't look like her book counterpart, due to casting decisions, but she does capture the attitude of Murphy, and the two of them work well together. Their's is an interesting relationship, and it's what powers much of the show. Harry has to walk a fine line between helping Murphy, and protecting her by not helping her.

Terrence MannRight now, I'm actually a little confused about just what you will see when you tune in on the 21st. According to the preview DVD, the episode "Birds Of A Feather" is set to air on the 21st, with "The Boone Identity" following the next week. However, the Dresden page on Sci Fi's site still references the "Storm Front" episode. So, all bets are off on just what is coming first. What I can tell you is that this is a fun show.

I don't think it has the wide ranging appeal of Eureka, and the schedule is going to be tougher on Dresden as well, so the ratings probably aren't going to set any records. And, as I mentioned before, the concept of a wizard living and working in the modern day world is just out there enough that it could be easily dismissed by people that don't hear any more about it. Still, if given a chance, I think the stories are good, and Harry is a great character that can keep people coming back to see more.

One other note, for those that are fans of the books, there are a lot of changes made in the translation to the small screen. Producer Robert Wolfe (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The 4400) sums up the differences as well as anyone when he says, "We're not sticking strictly to Jim's overall chronology or main plotpoints at all. Except when we do. So if you watch an episode of the show which you think is going to turn out the same way as a similar episode in one of the books, you're going to be in for some surprises. Except when you're not. Basically, our Dresden may vary. Remain calm."

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Mark Rabinowitz

Grrr.....another example of not allowing the actor to speak in his native accent. I've gotten over Dr. House not being English (although I think he'd have been just as, or more, arrogant and pompous as a Brit) but this one is annoying me. Why on earth does Sci Fi think that the US wouldn't buy a British wizard!!?? It's not like the Harry Potter movies aren't HUGE hits!

January 22 2007 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've seen Blackthorne in a lot of guest spots and cancelled series and enjoy him. Good to see him back on TV and hopefully, this won't be another one of those cancelled series.

And hopefully, I'll enjoy the show more than the books (which I just couldn't get into).

January 05 2007 at 10:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mickey Finn

Right now, it appears that the Scifi Chan is going to air the episodes slightly out of order, in their bid for critical acclaim. Per Robert Wolfe, this won't screw things up, continuity wise, except for minor nitpicks alot of people won't catch.
Straight from the Wolfe's mouth:
SciFi has decided to show Birds first, then Boone, then probably "Hair of the Dog." Not sure what's next after that. Probably "Rules of Engagement" followed by "Storm Front."

January 05 2007 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Love

Todi, it's interesting that you bring up the Destroyer books. I can see the similarities, and I loved those as well. I would guess I probably read 40 or 50 of them. I never did track down the whole collection though.

newkiller, yep, Dresden will be on right before Battlestar.

January 02 2007 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm looking foward to this show - it seems like finally there's a really cool twist on the standard/generic CSI type formula - wizard detectives? I'm so there. I love shows that mix real life with supernatural elements - Buffy, etc. - and it's going to be on right before BSG on Sundays, yes? Good night of TV!

January 02 2007 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've read most of the books that this series is (apparently somewhat loosely) based on, and while they're definately not what you'd call classics, they're still a lot of fun, and feature pretty imaginative plot-twists. Essentially they keep you guessing a lot of the time. They also contain a lot of well written action scenes, think real-world hits magic-world in the face. Should be fun to see on tv.

The books remind me a lot of the old Destroyer (remember Remo?) books, pulpy and fun, not to be taken too seriously. If the tv-series could capture a little of that feeling, i think they'll be able to find an audience, and be a lot of fun.

January 02 2007 at 7:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds kind of similar to Psych, with a magical twist.

January 01 2007 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I caught the first episode (or at least what was called the 1st episode in the DVDs we received) and I didn't care for the show. Not really worth my time...yet.

January 01 2007 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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