Terminal City



9-10 p.m. Thursday, March 6
Sundance Channel

The 10-episode "Terminal City" is another entry into the still nameless genre we see a lot of these days: for now we can just call it "making light of serious stuff" -- you know, homelessness, or better, cancer. Sometimes it works, as in the recent telefilm "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy," and sometimes it really works (try "Six Feet Under").

This light dramatic series -- which premiered in 2005 on Canadian television and now comes to Sundance Channel -- doesn't always succeed. It's serious stuff, all right, because it focuses on a fortysomething wife and mother who learns that she has breast cancer. But when it tries to be humorous, it hits some rough patches. It's hard to balance the serious stuff with the lighthearted, and not many have succeeded at it. Also, "Terminal City" has a somewhat colorless delivery, and that often makes it seem to be falling off the screen.

But the cast is excellent, that's for sure. Maria del Mar ("Price of Glory") plays our heroine, Katie Sampson, who approaches her life with vigor and a zesty sense of humor. Her husband, Ari (Gil Bellows), is more the quiet type who appreciates his wife's robust spirit and loves living with her and their kids.

When Katie learns that she has a lump in her breast and is told it's serious, she tries not to fall apart. While at the hospital for a biopsy, she runs into a television crew doing a live broadcast of a reality show titled "Post Op!" (Yes, seriously.) Katie becomes its star and soon gets a TV career going -- and, go figure, all because of a lump in her breast.

The first episode, directed by Rachel Talalay, is pretty slow going, as if unfolding under water. Of course, it takes time for the setup, which includes our introduction to Katie's family and then to her illness. It could, however, use more snap. Creator-writer Angus Fraser infuses the series with a seriousness that often overtakes the humorous situations Katie and her family find themselves in. Even as the opening credits roll, Thomas Burstyn's cinematography offers serious, natural images that collide with Schaun Tozer and Ben Mink's rather lighthearted music.

"Terminal City" never truly finds its place in a genre that's hard to pull off. It's outlandish that our heroine would find herself a media star, even though it's timely. But that's the nature of the humor -- or was that drama?

Sundance Channel
A Chum Television, Movie Central and the Movie Network production, in association with Crescent Entertainment and Big Dog Prods.
Director-creator: Angus Fraser
Director: Rachel Talalay
Executive producers: Christine Haebler, Jayme Pfahl, Angus Fraser
Producer: Gordon Mark
Director of photography: Thomas Burstyn
Original music: Schaun Tozer, Ben Mink
Production designer: Rob Gray
Editor: Stein Myhrstad
Casting: Corinne Clark, Jennifer Page
Katie: Maria del Mar
Ari: Gil Bellows
Sarah: Katie Boland
Saul: Paul Soles
Jane: Jane McLean
Nicky: Adam Butcher