The 4400 is yet another in a long line of made-for-TV science fiction shows that begins with a great premise and ends with a lackluster revelation. The good news is that the program is pretty darn good up until its 5th and final episode – and perhaps some of the answers that we get in the final show won't be so "final" after all, since USA has picked the program up for 13 more episodes in 2005.
As the pilot begins (actually two episodes put together for the show's TV premiere), we see a number of people being abducted by what most viewers will probably guess are aliens. There's young Maia Rutledge (Conchita Campbell) who is abducted in the early 1940's; military man Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) taken in the 1960's; businessman Orson Baily (Michael Moriarty) in 1979; and young Sean Farrell (Patrick Flueger) – who is one of the final abductees.
Set in the present day, the mini-series first introduces us to Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch), whose son Kyle (Chad Faust) was with Sean Farrell on the night of his abduction, and has been in a coma ever since. There's also a mysterious comet that suddenly changes trajectory straight toward Earth, and the local branch of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington state – headed up by Dennis Ryland (Peter Coyote) – takes charge of the crisis, since the comet is heading straight for Mt. Rainier.
The comet leaves behind 4400 abductees, including those mentioned above. When Tom discovers that Sean is one of the 4400, he convinces Ryland to hire him back as a Homeland Security agent, and joining with fellow agent Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), the two investigate both the mystery surrounding the arrival of the 4400, as well as the strange and unique abilities each one of abductees are starting to show.
The 4400 has a great set-up to it, and has somewhat of an X-Files kind of vibe, due to the premise that has Tom and Diana investigating various members of the 4400. There's also some interesting ideas going on with some of the supporting cast – such as the Richard Tyler character suddenly finding himself in a world where racism isn't nearly as bad as it was during the 60's; and Orson Baily, who was a successful professional in the late 70's, but now has to deal with the fact that the technological advances and faster-paced practices of the 21st century have all but made him a dinosaur in the business world.
The problem here is with the 5th and final episode, "White Light," in which the viewer finally finds out who abducted the 4400 and for what reason. Was it an advanced alien race? Or possibly God Himself? The real answer is rather lackluster and one of those science-fiction clichés that could really hurt the series if the writers continue to pursue it as a storyline. I won't give it away for those who haven't watched it yet, but the way it's presented to the viewer, there is a chance that it's a lie…or at least not the total truth…so that's something to hope for as this show looks to become an ongoing successful series.
The episodes are presented on two DVDs, with the pilot and "The New & Improved Carl Morrissey" on Disc One; and "Becoming," "Trial By Fire" and "White Light" on Disc Two.
Each episode is presented in the anamoprhic widescreen format at a 1.78:1 ratio. The picture looks quite nice indeed – sharp, with little defects or grain evident on the print. It's one of the nicer recent transfers of a TV show to DVD that I've seen.
Viewers will have the option of listening to the shows in 5.1 or 2.0 Digital Dolby. Obviously, the 5.1 track is the preferred choice here – and it really sounds nice. Aggressive without being overwhelming, the audio enhances the nicely done video to make these programs quite enjoyable viewing.
Nada. Zero. Zilch. And I mean none. Not even any non-relevant trailers or promos for other DVDs. This is really a shame, since I know there are interviews with the cast concerning the series (you can jump over to USA's 4400 website to see them). Why USA and Paramount chose to give this show such a bare-bones release is anyone's guess, but the fact that this is an episodes-only release was a real disappointment.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a close call for me between rental and recommended – not because the show isn't a quality one (despite the last episode, I feel it holds up to repeat viewings), but because of the total lack of bonus material. But because I enjoyed watching the shows just as much the second time around as when they first aired on TV, and because I feel the A/V quality here is near top-notch, I'm going to go ahead and give The 4400 a recommendation to buy, rather than rent. Just be forewarned, if you're looking for any supplemental material, you won't find it on these discs.