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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Miracles: Complete Series
Miracles: Complete Series
Shout Factory // Unrated // April 19, 2005
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted April 7, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
God works in mysterious ways

The Show
Throughout the past few decades, the idea of paranormal investigators has become more and more popular, reaching its peak with the highly-popular "The X-Files." While Mulder and Scully are the standard-bearers of the genre, there are plenty of lesser-known examples. "Miracles" falls into this group, mainly because only six episodes made it onto TV, and those were jostled around the schedule thanks to the beginning of the war in Iraq. One wonders if the show had been given a consistent time slot, would it have built a true following?

Paul Callen (Skeet Ulrich, Scream) is an investigator with the Catholic Church, determining whether miracles are truly what they seem. He's been struggling with the burden of having to crush the hopes of the faithful when he can ascribe scientific fact to what seems like the work of an unseen hand.

So when he meets Tommy, a boy who can heal the sick, despite his own terminal illness, he is enthusiastic, being finally able to declare a miracle. But the church doesn't see things his way, which leads to a falling out. It's then that Paul meets Alva Keel (Angus Macfadyen, Cradle Will Rock), who's part of Sodalitas Quaerito, an underground group that investigates the paranormal phenomenon that Paul is so interested in. Together with Alva, and his compatriot Evelyn (Marisa Ramirez, "General Hospital), Paul looks for the truth about his own past and the struggle between heaven and hell.

One of the show's central theme is hemography, the idea of blood forming words. After an accident, Paul sees the words "God is now here," formed from his own blood. When he first meets Alva, he is told that others have had similar experiences, but what they saw was slightly different: "God is nowhere." This slight difference puts Paul on the other side of an epic battle, but it's not exactly clear what the two sides represent. The line between good and evil isn't well defined, which keeps the audience guessing throughout the run.

For the most part, the episodes are self-contained, telling a series of "Twilight Zone"-like stories, while Paul, Alva and Evelyn have a continuing story thread that runs from beginning to end, which is influenced by their adventures. For those who need an ending to their stories, "Miracles" doesn't really provide one, mainly because of the hope that a second season would be in the offing. There's something of a wrap-up, but it's not the pat answer one might hope for from a mystery like this.

There are several stand-out episodes along the way, including "The Friendly Skies," which finds a plane disappearing for a minute, only to reappear, with everyone on board changed, based on their biggest fear or wish. While this is the hook, it's what happens afterwards that makes the episode great. "Hand of God" is probably the best episode of the series, and it's the story's turning point. As someone kills the people who see the hemography, questions are raised as to what Paul's internal motivations are, which he may not have any control over. Any preconceptions created by the first five episodes will be spun completely by this episode, especially its powerful ending.

Though Ulrich has been accused of being a Johnny Depp knock-off, he is capable of more than being the maniac from Scream. Here he is good as a man way over his head, trying to maintain his balance, and he's able to carry the show, displaying a mix of strength and vulnerability. Macfadyen is a bit uneven in his part, but that may be due to the writing, which tries to portray him as both dead inside and slowly growing warmer, only to switch his personality when it's necessary for the episode. It's hard to say how Ramirez does in her role, as she's barely in the series. Only occasionally does she get to do anything, though the final episode puts the spotlight on her a bit.

There are some serious scares during this series, but there's more than horror at work. The episodes that work the best are the heartbreaking ones, the moments that transcend the show's paranormal trappings. Look past the religious overtones and spooky settings, and there's a heart-and-soul drama at the core of "Miracles" that should appeal to just about anyone.

The DVDs
The 13 episodes of "Miracles" have been released on four DVDs, packaged in a well-designed eight-panel digipack, which is housed in a cardboard slipcase. The discs open with a series-appropriate animation featuring the two taglines central to the show. The menus are full-frame and animated, with footage from the series. A play-all option accompanies episode choices, special features and languages. There are no scene selections for the episodes, or subtitles, but there is closed captioning.

Only six episodes of "Miracles" were every aired, which means there are seven episodes in this set that have never been seen on TV in America.

The Quality
When "Miracles" first aired, HDTV hadn't reached even the minimal installation it has in 2005, so most people saw this series in your standard 4x3 aspect ratio. But for the lucky few in America who had HDTV, it was aired in widescreen. Unfortunately, only the full-frame transfers were provided to Shout! Factory, but the transfers look very good, a feat considering how dark the series can be. There's a bit of grain, but it seems to be from the shooting technique, and not a transfer issue. Colors are dull but proper (again, a style choice), while skin tones are spot-on. There's no visible dirt or damage in these episodes but the digital 'noise' can be noticable on larger monitors with a few scenes where compression is noticable. There's a softness to the show, but detail is actually quite good.

The audio for the series is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 track is lively, but doesn't take much advantage of direction in the surrounds. Mostly the rear speakers just give more weight to the sound effects and music. The dialogue is clear and there's no distortion in the sound, which is key since the sound plays a big part in creating the atmosphere of the show.

The Extras
Show creator Richard Hatem was heavily involved with this DVD set, which is always a good sign for fans of a series. His biggest contribution is being part of six commentaries, two on each of the first, third and fourth discs. Hatem prepared quite a bit for these commentaries, and as a result, they are extremely informative, with info about the writing, casting and production, as well as the hassles that went on with getting the show on the air and background on the legends and topics covered in the series. Hatem is joined (on different tracks) by Executive Producer David Greenwalt, writer David Graziano and writer Christian Taylor. These are definitely for the fans, a fact established in the final track, as Hatem goes down a roll call of online supporters of the show.

On the second disc, instead of commentaries, Hatem sits down for a 30-minute on-camera interview, in which he goes over the history of Miracles from origin to completion. Hatem is extremely enthusiastic about the series, and the interview benefits from the excitement.

For selected episodes, a deleted scene is included, which addresses some of the backstory questions that went unanswered, especially Evelyn's life outside of the office. Each deleted scene has an optional on-screen intro by Hattem, which helps set up the clip; a necessity, as there's no context otherwise. There's also a series promo on the fourth DVD.

The Bottom Line
Considering how conservatively Christian America has become, try to imagine a major network today airing a show about a man disgruntled with the Catholic Church, who is investigating whether God exists. Chances are extremely slim we'll ever see another show tackle similar issues. Because of that, this DVD set might be your last chance to see something unique: a religious "X-Files." Shout! Factory has once again provided cult-TV fans with an outstanding package, putting together a fine collection of extras and a great DVD presentation (if unfortunately full-frame.) Fans of paranormal mysteries or just simple good drama should give this series a look.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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