The Dresden Files
Empty9-11 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21
Sci Fi Channel
Sci Fi Channel's classy new series combines first-rate storytelling techniques with equally impressive special effects. The result: a series that is brooding, seductive and smart.
Based on the best-selling series of novels by Jim Butcher, "The Dresden Files" focuses on the comings and goings of Harry Dresden (a compelling Paul Blackthorne), a private detective based in Chicago who is in truth a wizard from the "other" world. To the ordinary working folk around him, he might look like a city boy, but he has got supernatural powers and ties to a mysterious underworld that are as dark as night, giving this series much of its kick and vigor. Dresden gets himself wrapped up in a series of crime-solving adventures that call for his supernatural skills at every turn.
Blackthorne is in his element playing Dresden. His slick looks and slow-moving manner give him a sophistication that the character needs. By his side is a ghost of sorts, an adviser from the netherworld named Bob (Terrence Mann) who happens to be a banished medieval wizard now haunting Harry's apartment and offering commentary that only a spirited mentor can give.
The rest of the cast is equally believable, including Valerie Cruz as Lt. Connie Murphy, who has no idea of Harry's powers, and Conrad Coates as Morgan, Harry's probation officer from the wizardous and otherworldly High Council.
In the pilot episode, while Murphy is called to the scene of a homicide to find a young woman skinned alive, Dresden meets a young boy who claims that a monster is out to get him and his mother. At first Harry doesn't believe him, but soon he finds himself embroiled in the boy's story -- and for many good reasons.
"Dresden" is as beautiful to watch as it is intelligent and witty to hear. Clint Green and Darren Cranford's visual effects are electric. Also notable is the series' dark, moody atmosphere, greatly helped by Franco de Cotiis' production design and Alwyn J. Kumst's luscious photography. Chicago looks like an underworld, giving the series a haunting physical presence.
David Carson, director of the pilot episode, makes the mood as much a character as the folks who populate the story. If Harry Dresden is to be believable, he must walk in as much physical darkness as his otherworldliness demands. The series uses the talents of various directors, writers and editors. If the pilot is any indication, each episode should be a visual and psychological treat.
THE DRESDEN FILES
Sci Fi Channel
Sci Fi Channel and Lionsgate
Executive producers/teleplay: David Simkins, Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Executive producers: Nicolas Cage, Norm Golightly
Executive producer ("Storm Front" episode): Hans Beimler
Producer: Jonathan Hackett
Director of photography: Alwyn J. Kumst
Director (pilot): David Carson
Production designer: Franco de Cotiis
Editors: Mike Lee, Jean Coulombe
Visual effects: Clint Green, Darren Cranford
Harry Dresden: Paul Blackthorne
Bob: Terrence Mann
Lt. Connie Murphy: Valerie Cruz
Morgan: Conrad Coates