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A friend of mine passed me a new article scan recently containing a rather curious article called "Black Humour." As you will see, the article questions the lack of humour in Millennium and in the lead character himself. This was certainly a concern that was expressed by 20th Century Fox also although it certainly wasn't an issue for the fans of the series who were drawn to its dark and sombre tone. What surprised me was the suggestion made that to improve the show it might have been wise to have axed Frank Black altogether. I think you can imagine my reaction to that. So now that the article is transcribed, have a look and see what you think and vote accordingly. A future without Frank? You decide.

Eth

Just call him the Black sheep of the Fox family. While Agents Scully and Mulder have achieved Sunday night glory as top-29 ratings kingpins, the man called in to fill their Friday night shoes – Frank Black of Millennium – is struggling to live up to the network’s expectations.

Although Millennium’s two-hour premiere drew blockbuster ratings, numbers for the series itself dropped off rapidly. “Fox thought this was going to launch gangbusters and stay gangbusters,” says Hollywood Reporter wirter Lisa de Moraes, “and that did not prove to be the case.”

“I think most of us assumed it would do as well as The X-Files,” says Betsy Frank, executive vice president of Zenith Media, a firm that buys air time for corporate advertisers. “It was going into the same time period, it was from the same creator and it was not terribly different, it seemed to us.”

But Chicago Tribune television critic Steve Johnson says there is a major difference. “One of the great things about The X-Files is there is this sort of humorous undertone. It’s not funny, but the writer’s are able to play off the characters – (Mulder’s) innate gullibility (Scully’s) skepticism,” he says.

But Frank Black, Johnson notes, isn’t exactly the life of the TV party. “He’s like a depressed dinner guest who won’t leave.” Television analyst Paul Schulman aggress, saying that advertisers are turned off by the show because it is “too dark” and “there are no light moments.” “As fine an actor as (Lance Henrikson) is, he’s just not the kind of lead that you want to invite into your home each week. He’s too serious and one-note.”

So how can the show lighten up? That’s simple, he says, “Kill him.”

Sounds radical, but according to Schulman, it might be the only way to save the show. “I think it would tough for (Henrikson) to accept a supporting role (if focus were shifted away from his character),” he says. “And I think killing him would get a number.”

Whether or not Black’s head is on the chopping block, big changes are planned for the upcoming season. Creator Chris Carter will be relinquishing his duties on the series to spend more time guiding The X-Files. Slipping into the executive producer’s chair will be Glen Morgan and James Wong, the team that helped shape The X-Files during its first season. James Morgan’s brother Darin, the talented scribe responsible for such classically kooky X-Files episodes as “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”, reportedly may join the Millennium writing crew, and he might provide the chuckles that advertisers seem to want.

Schulman says he knows what the new producers’ marching orders will be: make the show “more sci-fi, less gory. It’s at the request of the network, because the advertisers were objecting (to the dark tone) and the numbers were low. A lot of the advertisers look the other way on certain shows if the numbers are good enough. It’s worth taking the heat to (advertise) in The X-Files. It’s not worth taking the heat to be in Millennium. It’s like the old saying that love and action become sex and violence when it’s below a 20 share.”

TV Guide’s Rick Schindler thinks the reforms are worth a try – the show is “so humorless it’s ripe for parody.” He says. But he wonders if even the humor of Wong and the brothers Morgan can save the show.

“It would have to be pretty black humor,” he says. “It’s hard to get too funny about serial killers.” – P.O.

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Guest teedub

Why did this show need to have humor in it??? I still don't get this complaint. Does every drama need to have an injection of humor? Why was Frank looked at so negatively? Did no one see the lighter side of him every time he was with his kid? The producers answering these unfounded complaints is what ruined the show for me in seasons 2 and 3. :angryred:

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Years ago serious drama shows and movies didn't have any humor in them; they took the storyline seriously. Drama was drama, humor was comedy. Adding humor to a serious storyline is more of a modern thing, especially for the adventure films. I can remember back to many drama shows on TV, and there wasn't any humor in them, but most of the time there were happy endings. Nowadays we don't have all the happy endings that we used to.

Frank Black's character is what made the show so good. Nor could anyone else but Lance Henricksen pull it off. And besides, there's always more viewers for a pilot then the following episodes anyway, it's always been that way and still is, so I see nothing new in that area. I believe this is one individual who didn't like the character for whatever reason, and for whatever reason, possibly decided to write an article against him to ruffle the feathers of the fans. It did lighten up in a few places, for example, when Catherine and Frank were separated and she came over to Frank's place and Lara was there. It was suttle humor, and it was good.:oneeyedwinK

Plus, you can't compare The X-Files with Millennium, they are two different productions, characters, and story lines. It's like trying to compare Mark and I, or Graham and I, or even consider the Spook , you just can't. We are individual personalities with individual traits, with some spookier then others. :whistling:

If humorous undertone is what some people think makes a better show, then so many of the great movies and TV shows that didn't have any humor must have been flops, you know, movies like Ben Hur to name one.

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"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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I will keep my opinion short for the first time in a long time. Drama does not equal humour, laughter, and light happy things.

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I am growing

And I am growing anxious

And I am growing weary

And I am growing closer

And I am growing up

And I am growing impatient

And I am growing leery

And I am growing wise

And I am growing less

And less

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I have to say I agree with you all wholeheartedly but then I'm a Millennium fan so I assume that's to be expected. It is curious that the biggest complaint seems to be the lack of humour and light moments in the show. Do people really tune into dark, psychological tales with an expectation that there would be such a thing? Arguably, one influence on "Millennium" was the hugely successful "Se7en" which, as I recall, was hardly a barrel of laughs from beginning to end. Now I did read an article some time ago that discussed the lack of humour in "Millennium" and it stated that television, unlike film, cannot sustain a very dark narrative for twenty plus hours of screen time without some form of counterbalance. It asserted that this is fine in a cinematic offering because there is a limit to how long the audience will be exposed to such unrelenting darkness but in a television show an audience will generally not stay with something which is striking a similar dark chord without reprieve.

Not sure I agree but here's an interesting challenge. I tried to think of the types of dark television that I have enjoyed in the past and off the top of my head I thought of "Wire In The Blood", "Cracker" and "Prime Suspect". In each of these cases they broke boundaries in terms of what they were able to get away with doing and the dark places to which they exposed the viewer to. Were they without humour? Well no and truth be told I cannot think of a television series that is especially dark whilst having no humourous moments to balance them. So I'm thinking can you? I'm interested to see if we can find a show as dark and as humourless as "Millennium" that was a success and could provide a counter argument to what the critics were saying.

Eth

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I was about to ask the very question you've raised, Eth. I can't really think of other dark and (allegedly) humourless TV shows, but then I don't tend to watch much in the way of dramas. What about the various CSI shows or Law & Order? I've watched very little of those but presumably they deal with extreme crimes (presumably more than shoplifting) and I guess shows like that could leaven the mood by some bantering between the main characters.

I don't really get the point that dark, humourless movies are ok, but TV shows aren't. It's not 24 consecutive hours of watching, after all.

I think there's a factor that might have had influence back then, and that's what TV audiences also had available. Fashions change in TV shows as much as anything else, and maybe it wasn't solely the darkness of Millennium but also the contrast with other prime-time TV fare. Critics can get influenced by current fashion just as anyone else.

What's "Dexter" like? I watched only a couple or so episode in the first season.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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Guest SpooktalkGiGi

Dexter is very dark but has humor. I was trying to think of a dark show i watch that doesn't have humor in some form or another but i can't think of any. I will rack my brain to see what i can come up with. :) i think the humor in a lot of dark shows is very subtle not really that noticeable, i think there were some subtle humor in Millennium in some episodes with Rodecker and sometimes with Frank the way he would look at you or the look on his face and even Lara Means had some humor. :) But overall it was a dark show and was meant to be that. :)

Laura :)

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As far as I can recall Libby, the article wasn't making the case that the duration of a film compared to that of run of episodes is the reason why a dark format is successful in on instance and not in the other. To read my summation though that looks to be the case so consider my wrists slapped for not elaborating a little better. The article espoused the idea that the characters can inhabit a dark world for a sufficient amount of time and hold the audience's interest but if those characters appear time and time again, as in episodic television, without any variance in the tone of their world then viewers will loose interest. If I'm right, the article likened it to a slice of the richest chocolate cake. Fine for a portion but no one wants the whole cake in one sitting or would want to eat nothing but for every meal. I think I could prove that analogy wrong actually.

Now I have delved deep and truth be told I can't be much help in terms of US shows. I watch a lot of US genre but relatively little else so my thinking is entrenched in what's the goggle box in Blighty. I met some chums for a night of nerdism yesterday and I posed the same question to them and no-one could posit an example of a single show that didn't use humour to balance the darkness. In my opinion it's evidence of Chris Carter creating a unique world, one which hadn't been seen before and possibly hasn't seen since and since we retain a vast interest in that it succeeded. He didn't intend to sugar the pill and by all accounts neither did Lance as both reacted with less enthusiasm to the lightness of touch that was demanded of season two of the show.

Now here's a strange thought. Season three returned to the ethos of season one in which one-liners and mirth were not used as a contrast to the darkness but I still feel season three lacks some of the emotional depth of season one. The Carter vision vs the Duggan/Johannessen vision looks similar on paper despite some modifications inherited from season two but season three is certainly emotionally deprived so I would assert that despite a lack of overt humour in season one it had a heart and a warmth, especially in the Catherine/Frank/Jordan dynamic that the third season did not. The first season may have lacked jollies and jest but it had a heart and it bugs me to this day that people miss that.

Eth

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There were some "jokes" and lighter moments, here and there...but why do you want to joke around serial killers and murderers? Idiots!!! They did get their wish in season 2, which I do like. I don't think that would have worked for the first season though. The second season was a different beast so they could include new characters and put some fun banter between characters.

I'm not depressed, just quiet.

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