Surface - Earnest, hatchet-faced, crunchy-granola marine biologist whom no one believes? Check. Stars-&-bars-flogging, lost-cause goober whose brother was (possibly) eaten by the mysterious creatures in question, and who sidekicks with the aforementioned scientist? Check. Adorable teenage scamps who, in a subplot lifted whole from Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, adopt a baby creature, with all sorts of chuckle-worthy hijinks ensuing? Check. Remote control? Check.
The groovy special effects are not enough to save this dismal barrel of week-old chum.
Invasion - Water may feel different, but this fucking show doesn't. A wannabe The O.C. on the bayou with all the deeply unappealing principals laboring mostly ignorant under a viral threat that I'm pretty sure will either kill them or turn them into pod people. Here's cheering for the former.
Night Stalker - "If you want a job done right, you just have to foul it up yourself." Propers to whoever cast Gabrielle Union, an actress unique in her talent for looking always as though she's on the verge of kicking everyone's ass. Otherwise, this one vies for the title of Most Unnecessary and Ill-Informed Remake Ever. Darren McGavin, why hast thou forsaken us?
Threshold - Details, details. This is the infuriating one, because it clearly had potential when the idea was first pitched -- because I can see myriad tiny flaws which, had they been fixed, could have salvaged this (admittedly spooky) mess. Let's start with the casting: the totally competent Carla Gugino (best known for playing a sexy naked lesbian parole officer in Russ Meyer's* Sin City, bless her little heart) is fine in the role of Dr. Molly Caffrey, brain-trust behind the Threshold protocols, but wouldn't it have been great had the part instead gone to Carrie Ann Moss? And nothing would have been lost (yet oh so much gained) by replacing the generic, squintyeyedtightvoicedlanternjawedwhiteguy muscle with, say, the crookedly grinning hotness of Russell Wong. The powers that be could furthermore have completely dumped the nebbishy nerd character, who feels like a watery, warmed-over version of David Krumholtz's from Numb3rs; give us a breezy, smart-ass Latina wunderkind scientist, or a saucy gay-boy prodigy with a wicked right hook -- I'm easily entertained, but for the love of God, people, make an effort. Otherwise, I'm content; it's nice to see Brent Spiner working again. And I totally heart Peter Dinklage, but would it have killed the director to put him with a good coach and speech pathologist so he'd at least sound convincing when he speaks snippets of Cantonese to the extras? Anyway, Threshold, unlike the other shows listed, is home to characters you actually don't want to see die, primarily because they've started out with a mission of saving our world despite its obvious crapulence; Dr. Caffrey's admission in one episode, clunky writing notwithstanding, that a world in which redemption is impossible is not worth saving is one I found surprisingly touching. Such psychological rawness is rare among most modern TV characters, who are too interested in honing their assholism for the sake of seeming cool (see above).
In summation, a finer and more imaginative hand with the dialogue, a little more money thrown at production values (especially in regards to special effects and camera work), more effort in casting -- hell, even a slightly more sophisticated title sequence -- could have made Threshold the X-files of the 21st Century (or, in point of fact, better even than that). Certainly, it could have rivaled anything on HBO or Showtime. Too bad it got off to such a groaning start.
Then again, I'm probably just wasting my time. TV sucks.