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April 10, 2005

Review: The Lone Gunmen

Yours truly both saw and meticulously videotaped every episode of The X-Files. As further evidence of my Poindexter prowess, in 1998, I actually plunked down $25 just to wander a rusty aircraft hanger with fellow "truth seekers" at the very first X-Files Expo. I even gutted through two seasons alongside Robert Patrick's woefully underappreciated Agent Doggett after David Duchovny got too goldern big for his britches. But do I own any X-Files season on DVD? Nope. How 'bout the movie? Um, no.

I did, however, pogo and "Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!" around my mailbox like Daffy Duck upon the arrival of The Lone Gunmen. Marginalized and maligned in FOX's 13-and-out midseason run, the spacey spinoff has since snuggled into genuine cult-within-a-cult status, making its relatively lavish digital debut a gleefully absurd example of TV-to-DVD's niche market potential.

While owning all 13 shows is an unexpected treat, if pressed, I'd gladly sacrifice 'em all for a single episode which perfectly encapsules the show's gloriously goofy raison d'etre -- its Revenge of the Nerds meets Mission: Impossible soul. That episode: "Planet of the Frohikes!" In it, the time-honored "1,000 Monkeys on 1,000 Typewriters" theory is put to the literal test in a secret government lab from which pops a precocious primate voiced by EDWARD WOODWARD!!!

The Gunmen, always in pursuit of an underground-journalism exclusive, naturally liberate said super-intelligent chimp who not only sounds like the guy from The Equalizer, but insists on being addressed as Simon White-Thatch Potentloins rather than his "slave name" Peanuts. For plot purposes, Mr. Potentloins also enlists their aid in thwarting an assassination attempt by Bobo -- his Russian counterpart. Uh huh, you read that right. Oh!!! Almost forgot the episode where Frohike has to ID a Nazi war criminal by ogling her wrinkly frau fanny!

Granted, the show wasn't all yuks, and in retrospect, could hardly get heavier than the pilot (or more out of tone), which depicts a now chilling plot to incite world war by plowing a jetliner into the World Trade Center. (For you conspiracy theorists and numerologists out there: The pilot originally aired March 4, 2001 -- 191 days before September 11, 2001. 1-9-1. 9-1-1. Ooooooooo!)

Unfortunately, chortles and cataclysmic foreshadowing aside, the spinoff premiered when even X-Files diehards were gasping their last. They'd endured Chris Carter's interminable conspiratorial shell games. Duchovny's despicable nose thumbing. So, tongue-in-cheek geek chic just wasn't going to mend those wounds, and for many, it only further exemplified how far from "the truth" the franchise had strayed. Hopefully, for those folks, with time comes renewed objectivity and a resensitized funny bone with which to revisit this giggle-wrought gem.

Longtime subscribers of The Lone Gunman and newcomers alike will also discover audio gold among this two-disc set's FIVE commentaries -- two by cast members Bruce Harwood (Byers), Dean Haglund (Langly), Tom Braidwood (Frohike), sidekick Stephen Snedden (Jimmy Bond) and Lara Croft knockoff Zuleikha Robinson (Yves), plus three more by the writing/production teams. This includes the bonus X-Files episode "Jump the Shark," which ties an overly morose bow around The Gunmen. Need a pick-me-up? A good gander at the 40-minute retrospective, Defenders of Justice: The Story of The Lone Gunmen, will put a smile back on even the most parnoid puss.

4 of 5 stars

Highly Recommended Video: 3 Audio: 3 Extras: 4 Replay: 3

2001, 559 mins (13 episodes), 1.78:1 anam, DD 2.0, Commentaries, Bonus episode, Documentary, TV spots.

Posted by G. Noel Gross at April 10, 2005 8:04 PM


I also adored this show and am thrilled to finally own it on DVD. TLG was yet another brilliant series that Fox didn't give much of a chance (see also: Firefly, Strange Luck, Space: Above & Beyond, Get Real, FreakyLinks, and a dozen others). Thanks for the great review!

Posted by: Kim at May 2, 2005 4:55 PM

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