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She Spies - The Complete First Season
I knew even before I spun episode 1 that She Spies would be one of two things: either a glitzy guilty pleasure full of silly action and beautiful babes -- or a 20-episode marathon of torture. Since I'd never seen the show before (despite being a big Natasha Henstridge fan), I expected it to be a fairly straight-faced affair. But hey, guess what? The show's mainly played for laughs ... and it gets 'em! Who'da thunk it?
As the gals are so keen to inform you in virtually every episode, She Spies is about "three beautiful ex-cons who work for a clandestine organization seeking to rid the world of peril." One week it's a looney bomber, the next it's a kidnapping or an assassination attempt or a bodyguard gig. For those of us raised on the original Charlie's Angels series, none of the She Spies cases will come across as shockingly unique.
But for such a simplistic little series, She Spies possesses two things that make it better than you'd expect. The first is a silly streak of consistently self-referential humor and overt genre-awareness. She Spies pokes fun at its own stereotypes and cliches, it occasionally shatters the fourth wall, and it drops lots of movie-geek jokes along the way -- because, hey, if you're going to create a third generation Charlie's Angels retread, it's probably best to do so with your tongue planted firmly in cheek.
The other asset lies in the main foursome. The statuesque Natasha Henstridge (Species, Ghosts of Mars, The Whole Nine Yards) proves herself equally comfortable with karate-chop action scenes and broad, snarky comedy schtick. Gal pals D.D. (Kristen Miller) and Shane (Natashia Williams) fill out the spy outfit quite nicely as they dole out high-kicks and punchlines with colorful style ... and then there's "the bosley." As the She Spies' ringleader, organizer, taskmaster, and semi-manly comic relief, character actor Carlos Jacott does a terrific job throghout the season.
She Spies wants to be a "hot spy chick" rendition of Xena: Warrior Princess, what with all the genre-snark and self-awareness jokiness. The series only ran for two seasons, with its first four episodes on NBC and the rest in syndication, but I suspect it's a title that'll earn its fair share of fans on the DVD circuit. She Spies might be just another silly knock-off from a well-established formula ... but at least the show knows it's just another silly knock-off, etc.
Oh, and there's always something to be said for the astute casting director. In the first six episodes of She Spies I spied folks like Barry Bostwick, Josh Molina, George Wyner, Dee Wallace-Stone, Mindy Sterling, Henry Gibson, Costas Mandylor, Ray Wise, Stephen Furst, and Jon Polito! For movie geeks like me, "spot the character actor" is a really fun game.
1. The First Episode -- A former politician-turned-talk-show host faces a sinister assassination plot. Can the spies protect a ... hey, isn't that Barry Bostwick from The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
2. The Martini Shot -- Cassie poses as a runway model to shake up a Martini-led ring of fashion secret stealers. Beet and cauliflower smoothies play a stirring role, and some folks just like to dress up as furry animals.
3. Poster Girl -- The Spies go after two brothers using a children's hospital to run a bogus charity scam.
4. Daddy's Girl -- The team must protect a rebellious teenager from anarchist coffee-house plotters. Or do they? Uncover the "fun" in "dysfunctional family," and get a free history lesson as well.
5. Fondles -- The spies go undercover at a singles' apartment complex to do battle with (drum roll, please) Icelandic spies? Get a case of upload deja vu, and see what skim milk and skin have in common ... besides three letters.
6. Ice Man -- A comedy club that launders money. An assassin who preys on Spies. What's next? An Elvis-impersonating ventriliquist? A post-modern birthday cake? A musical tribute to accountants? Oh, well, OK.
7. Three Women and a Baby -- The Spies pick up nanny duty when an arms dealer's baby is left on their doorstep. Hey, is that a rocket launcher in your pocket or are you just ... oh, it's a rocket launcher.
8. Trap -- The girls are trapped in their own house by an explosives-happy killer looking for revenge. Tripwires, sensors and bombs ... oh, mines!
9. Spies vs. Spy -- The Spies go up against a former teammate to protect an Ambassador's daughter on her wedding day.
10. Perilyzed -- The women share fond memories of how they met in prison, while slowly suffering the lethal effects of a poisonous stuffed frog. We'll spare you the obvious "croak" joke.
11. Betrayal -- When D.D. is accused of being a traitor, will the other Spies bring down their confused compatriot? Will you ever be able to watch The Pirates of Penzance the same way again?
12. The Girl with the Broken Heart -- A case of mistaken identity finds the team at a pharmaceutical conference looking for an international spy who's engaged to - uh oh - Cassie's old flame.
13. You Don't Know Jack -- The Spies face off against the assassin "La Puma." But he may be closer to them than they know. Much, much closer. You might even say "La Puma is Jack their boss." OK, that may be giving away too much.
14. First Date -- Somebobdy's selling secrets, and it's one of the partners in a technology company. Only the timeless art of seduction can determine who the traitor is, unless...
15. While You Were Out -- The Spies must protect a CEO from assassination by a well-funded, well-organized band of lethal secretaries bent on world domination. Sure, it's a tale as old as time.
16. Daze of Future Past -- When Jack loses his memory in an accident, can he achieve total recall in time to stop a diabolical plot? Is there symbolism behind all those Angels? And what's with the monkey?
17. The Replacement -- International thief Indigo (Brooke Burns) captures Cassie, and the Spies take on a new teammate to find her. Um, did you hear what we said? Brooke Burns. Do you really need more?
18. Damsels in De-Stress -- While unwinding at an official government health spa, the Spies find themselves the target of a(nother) mad bomber. Added Bonus! Learn how to crack passwords from a dietician, naturally.
19. Learning to Fly -- What can go wrong on an airplane? Let Shane tell you every conceivable possibility as the Spies protect an animal rights activist from the clutches of P.U.T.A. Don't ask.
20. We'll Be Right Back -- Love can be cold, but when an old friend wants to cryogenically freeze himself to be with his girlfriend, the Spies suspect foul play. A comedic yet action-packed fight follows in a story-appropriate location.
Video: The episodes are presented in a pinkish fullscreen presentation. Picture quality's not too shabby, although the color bleeds just a bit and there's some grungy grain to be found.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional English subtitles. Audio quality is evenly balanced, with the funky theme song presented in fine form.
Much of She Spies is very broad and amiably silly, but it also pops up with a really clever bit or slick sequence from time to time. It's mindless eye candy by every conceivable measure, but hell, it's fun stuff.