"Terminator" TV spinoff a triumph

Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:58am EST

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the mind of executive producer/writer Josh Friedman, Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" could just as well be called "Terminator 3: The Television Version." The series is intended to continue the story from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," released 16 years ago and starring the governor of California.

The series, like the movie, is an action-packed, explosion-filled sci-fi variation of "The Fugitive," though the circumstances are sketchier. While it helps a bit to have seen the movie -- fashioned from equal parts of celluloid and testosterone -- you can catch up with the premise in a few minutes.

Teenage John Connor (Thomas Dekker) is destined to be the savior of mankind, only without all those religious overtones. In the not-too-distant future, some degenerate scientist will come out with a line of cyborgs that essentially are anthropomorphic killing machines. They will both kill and enslave mankind.

John will lead a band of rebels against them, but first he has to live that long. The evil genius behind the cyborgs is aware of the threat posed by John and wants to nip it in the blood. So one of those nearly indestructible cyborgs is sent back in time to stunt John's growth.

Fortunately for John, he is protected by his mom, Sarah (Lena Headey), who spent three years in a mental institution just because she tried to warn people. She also has been falsely charged with killing a brilliant computer scientist. Sarah is a beautiful blend of secret agent and supermom. One morning, for example, she tells John they have to leave quickly. "Half an hour. One bag. Plus a gun. I'll make pancakes."

As if the cyborg wasn't enough, Sarah also is being pursued by FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones), who considers her an escaped fugitive. Ellison could potentially screw up the future of mankind, but, as played by Jones, he's really a decent, likable guy.

Fortunately for Sarah and John, they have their own personal cyborg, also sent from the future, in the form of Cameron Phillips (Summer Glau). John correctly labels her a babe, but she is a mechanical babe, which can really wreak havoc on a boy's hormones.

Director David Nutter gets the series off to a rousing start, practically packing every frame with suspense, special effects and an urgency that drives this show like an incessant drumbeat. Can subsequent episodes measure up to this glitzy and heart-pounding pilot? A second episode sent to critics pretty much assures they can.

After the premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday, the series settles into its regular time slot at 8 p.m. Mondays.

Cast:

Sarah Connor: Lena Headey

John Connor: Thomas Dekker

Cameron Phillips: Summer Glau

Agent James Ellison: Richard T. Jones

Executive producers: Josh Friedman, James Middleton, Mario F. Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels, David Nutter; Producer: Charlie Goldstein; Director: David Nutter; Teleplay/developed for TV by: Josh Friedman; Based on characters created by: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd; Director of photography: Bill Roe; Production designers: Scott Murphy, Chris Brown; Editor: Paul Karasick; Music: Bear McCreary; Stunt coordinator: Joel Kramer; Set decorator: Elaine O'Donnell; Casting: Lisa Beach, Sarah Katzman;

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter