Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TV Review: Nowhere Man (1995)

Nowhere Man
TV's NOWHERE MAN from Lawrence Hertzog
The Complete Series

Created by Lawrence Hertzog
Produced by Stan Rogow

Thomas Veil...Bruce Greenwood
Alyson Veil...Megan Gallagher
Larry Levy...Murray Rubinstein
"My name is Thomas Veil, or at least I thought it was. I'm a photographer, I had it all: a wife, Alyson, friends, a career. And in one moment it was taken away, all because of a single photograph. I have it; They want it; and they will do anything to get the negative. I'm keeping this diary as proof that these events are real. I know they are... They have to be. "
Thomas Veil is a photojournalist who has traveled the world with his camera. Somewhere along the way, he has taken a photograph that the world was not meant to see, because upon the opening of his new exhibit in Chicago, Illinois, his entire life and indeed his existence has seemingly been erased. Desperate to find the truth and set things right, he embarks on a one man war against a massive unseen enemy and a conspiracy that has its grips everywhere.

Although by strict definition, Nowhere Man isn't a horror series, it had plenty of bizarre and unusual aspects to entertain the discerning fan. Its blend of X-Files themed conspiracy, The Fugitive's on-the-road aspects, and an Organization rivaling that of The Prisoner has propelled this series into cult status for its legion of devoted fans. It would have reached a much wider audience had it not been run on the fledgling UPN network and cancelled after only one season.

The series is finally available on DVD, saving fans from having to settle for another crappy bootleg.

Stand-out episodes are marked with a star by their title.

1) Absolute Zero*
Thomas Veil takes his wife Alyson out to a celebration dinner, but when he returns from a trip to the restroom it seems as if his entire existence has been erased. His own wife doesn't know him, nor do his friends, family, or pet German shepherd. His phone has been disconnected and the locks have been changed on his house. Questioning himself, Tom is admitted to a mental institution where he learns that the doctors at the hospital are a part of the conspiracy which took his identity. Now certain of his sanity, he escapes from the hospital and heads out on the open road in search of answers, his only clue lying in the fact that one of his photographs, “Hidden Agenda”—depicting a third-world execution—has been stolen.

The pilot episode has the distinction of being directed by horror genre legend Tobe Hooper.

2) Turnabout*
Tom uses identification stolen from the hospital to make his way across the country, posing as Dr. Bellamy. Soon “They” catch up to Tom, believing him to be the real doctor, and take him to their headquarters where Dr. Bellamy is told to use the same brainwashing technique on a Nowhere Woman patient that he had formerly used on one Thomas Veil. But soon enough, as the title suggests, the tables are turned.

3) The Incredible Derek
Tom enlarges the “Hidden Agenda” photograph and finds a clue that leads him to a small town in Georgia in the pursuit of more answers. He finds a paranoid soldier from the picture that refuses to offer any substantial answers and comes across Derek, a blind psychic child who makes some mysterious forecasts about Tom's predicament.

4) Something About Her
Using a little girl as bait, the conspirators apprehend Tom and place him into a hallucinatory state where he is forced to believe he has been living happily with a woman for nearly a year. When she is placed in jeopardy, Tom is questioned about the “Hidden Agenda” photograph and the whereabouts of the negatives. Just before giving into Their requests, something sparks Tom's memory and he realizes that the life he's living is not real.

5) Paradise On Your Doorstep
Tom secures himself a job developing photographs in a small town in order to hide out and earn money for his travels. While processing a roll of film, he spies a picture of his wife Alyson and attempts to track down the customer. The trail leads him to New Phoenix, a small community of people who have all lost their identities to the conspirators and have become Nowhere Men (or Women) themselves. The picture turns out to be a fake meant to lure him to their city, and Tom begins to question whether the people of New Phoenix are really citizens or prisoners.

6) The Spider Webb*
Tom finds the contents of The Lenny Little Show on public access television to be a little too close for comfort. Tom watches as Lenny Little runs through the same web of conspiracy that Tom himself has been running through, the actors portraying scenes directly out of Tom's previous adventures. Tom's investigation leads him to the offices of Max Webb productions, mysteriously tied to the conspirators. Webb assures Tom that the major problem is that Lenny Little has grown too predictable, and Tom takes his words to heart.

7) A Rough Whimper Of Insanity
Tom enlists the help of reclusive computer hacker/virtual reality genius Scott Hansen (Sean Whalen, Roach of Wes Craven's People Under The Stairs) to access the files his pursuers have on him. Unfortunately this episode falls prey to the trap most movies and television shows do when dealing with computers: it crosses well over the line of futuristic and into the land of ridiculousness.

8) The Alpha Spike
Tom traces Dr. Bellamy's path back to The Sterling Academy, a private school where he acquires a job as a janitor and discovers that the school board is brainwashing the students to be perfect soldiers. Upon discovering the body of an apparent suicide and believing that things are not as cut and dry as the police suspect, Tom is framed and arrested for the seduction of an underage student girl and held until his pursuers can pick him up.

9) You Really Got A Hold On Me*
While wandering through a spooky carnival at night, Tom's life is saved by Gus, a mysterious stranger who calls himself Tom's guardian angel and seems to know everything about his situation, including the only way out of it. Gus is, in fact, another Nowhere Man who has been on the run for a quarter of a century and has lost his will to go on. Dean Stockwell of Quantum Leap guest stars.

10) Father *
Attempting to find some aspect of his former life that has not been erased, Tom travels to his hometown where he finds his father, the man who abandoned him twenty years earlier. But is it really his father, or have “They” gotten to him too?

11) An Enemy Within
Tom is accidentally shot by a security guard in Pennsylvania and left in the woods. On the verge of death, he's discovered by Emily Noonan who takes him home and nurses him back to health. While recuperating, Tom is told by Emily that a powerful local corporation, Collective Foods, is tearing apart the town by buying up all the land. Emily, refusing to sell her farm, is engaged in a legal dispute with the corporation who accuses her of blocking progress. Tom finally finds someone he can trust and Emily finds a greater source of inspiration and strength then she previously thought possible. An innocent romance begins to develop.

12) It's Not Such A Wonderful Life *
Shortly before Christmas, Tom discovers that the military activities he photographed in “Hidden Agenda” are under investigation by the senate. He is soon located by federal agents who reveal the secrets behind “The Organization” (as “They” are technically called.) He's reunited with his wife Alyson and his mother in a government safe house where they can celebrate the holidays while his pursuers are being captured. Initially Tom believes Alyson's explanations for her behavior in earlier episodes, but in the end he finds that his winter wonderland is not what it seems.

13) Contact
An Organization insider contacts Tom and alerts him that Richard Grace, a member high up the ladder, is the one responsible for the erasure of his life. He promises Tom useful information about the Organization under the stipulation that he kill Grace. Tom has to decide how close he wants to get, and how willing he is to sleep with the enemy.

14) Heart Of Darkness*
Tom uses the computer that he received from his inside contact to hunt down Cyrus Quinn, a retired military man who is connected to the “Hidden Agenda” execution. To reach him, Tom must infiltrate the American Guard, a radical militia group that Quinn founded to further his own political beliefs.

15) Forever Jung
Tom's investigation leads him to a Minnesota nursing home where he poses as an orderly. He stumbles upon another branch of the conspiracy that grants elderly patrons another chance at youth, in exchange for their free will, a mind control experiment that is to result in the assassination of a high-powered judge.

16) Shine A Light On You
Investigating John Myerson, whom he has linked to The Organization, Tom visits a New Mexico town that is in an uproar over a series of recent UFO sightings. He is told by locals that Myerson is a scientist who was reportedly abducted by aliens months ago. Tom talks to his daughter Helen and convinces her to allow him access to the Weaver Institute where Myerson worked. Here he discovers the experiments going on under the supervision of The Organization and learns that Myerson may not be the victim he is believed to be.

17) Stay Tuned
Tom's contact leads him to Darby, New York which appears to be the perfect little town: unbelievably clean, hospitable, and overwhelmingly friendly. The entire town whole-heartedly supports a single politician, and this, along with the warnings of a few locals, confirms Tom's suspicion that something within this town is horribly wrong.

18) Hidden Agenda*
Tom's informant, who has been compromised by the Organization, convinces him to give the back story to the “Hidden Agenda” photograph, and in a series of flashbacks we witness he and his partner Harrison Barton uncover illegal operations by U.S. military in Nicaragua first hand. The episode ends with a startling revelation regarding the photograph which disrupts Tom's view of reality.

19) Doppelganger*
Tom accepts one final tip from the insider at The Organization, and arrives at the hometown of Clare Hillard, a fellow reporter who worked the same beat he did when he took the “Hidden Agenda” photograph. Here, Tom discovers another man has taken over his identity. Claire disappears and Tom is arrested in suspicion of her murder. Lucky for us, Tom can smell a rat from a mile away.

20) Through A Lens Darkly*
Tom is once again captured by the Organization and forced through a walk down memory lane. He is paralyzed and put into a trance where he relives events both real and altered from as early as his tenth year. We meet Tom's first love in this episode, Laura, and witness their ups and downs. After reliving too many painful memories, Tom breaks down and agrees to give up the “Hidden Agenda” negatives. But what of the past they're not showing him?

21) The Dark Side Of The Moon
While running from an Organization operative, Tom is mugged by a gang member who takes his bag and everything in it, including the “Hidden Agenda” negatives. Both Tom and the operative are in hot pursuit of the negatives, but the operative gets there first, killing the thief and leaving Tom to take the blame. Now Tom has to retrieve the negatives before the operative can get out of the city and avoid an angry set of gang members who are seeking revenge. The whole episode is backed and narrated by a late- shift radio DJ who likes to wax poetic about the night in between songs.

22) Calaway
Seeking a reprieve from a bad bout of insomnia, Tom finds a trail that leads him back to Calaway, the mental hospital where his adventure began in episode one. He's once again institutionalized and finds that former patient Joe Carter has joined the medical staff and thus the Organization. At first, Joe doesn't believe he was ever a patient but after some research finds that Tom is telling the truth. Also recently added to the hospital is a young new nowhere man, going through exactly what Tom did in episode one.

23) Zero Minus Ten (Coma)
Tom wakes up in a hospital bed, only to be told that he had been in a car accident which left him in a coma for numerous months. His wife Alyson and his best friend Larry are there when he awakes, assuring him that the whole terrible ordeal was just a dream. Tom is not convinced, but finds it in himself to trust Larry who promises to assist him in locating the negatives. In the meantime, Tom's photographs are being prepared for another showing, this time the centerpiece entitled “Displacement” rather than “Hidden Agenda.”

24) Marathon (Bed of Lies)*
After a tireless examination of the “Hidden Agenda” negatives, Tom discovers a clue that had until now never seen the light of day. It leads him to a research facility in Washington, D.C. that is home to the top-secret Project Marathon, a mind control assassination experiment. After surviving an attempt on his life, Tom makes contact with an FBI agent who, for once, appears to be an ally. This is Nowhere Man, however, so who is to say that all is as it seems? The agent tells Tom that one of the men executed in “Hidden Agenda” was a U.S. senator and gives him a key to a safety deposit box that contains a very important file.

25) Gemini Man*
Tom opens the safe-deposit box to find a full report on “Hidden Agenda” and the Organization written by an inside agent named Gemini. He learns that all four of the men executed in the photograph were in fact U.S. senators on the Intelligence Committee, and that only one member was not pictured. Tom tracks down the surviving senator to find out the truth, although the truth is ultimately ugly. The truth is that everything is a lie: Hidden Agenda, the negatives, even Tom Veil himself. A riveting episode that ties directly in with the one before it, and a fitting end to the season. It all makes sense, too, in a bizarre sort of way (providing you don't mind filling in the blanks for yourself.) We only wish we had one more episode—or Lord willing, a movie—to finish this thing off right.

Hidden Agenda

August 1995-May 1996
60 minutes
United States


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