Screenwriter David Hayter (“X-Men”) reminds us that the wizard never gave nothin’ to the tin man that he didn’t already have! And wait till you find out how little Tobias Beecher and Vern Schillinger have to do in the pilot!
Our reviewer says “‘Lost In Oz’ may become the new ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer.’ Or even better.” Does a better compliment exist?
“Princess X” scrutinizes the pilot script:
“Princess X” scrutinizes the pilot script:
LOST IN OZ /David Hayter/WB
LOST IN OZ – a WB take on the post-modern-girl-kicks-butt look at what happened to Oz after Dorothy Gale clicked her little red heels and headed back home to Kansas.
It promises to be good, right? Why shouldn’t it be? Dorothy Gale was one of the first celluloid female action heroes. It’s Dorothy who destroys evil personified with a bucket of water and asserts her (and her friends) rights against the chauvinistic Wizard of Oz, a schnook who fooled everyone in Oz but not our Dorothy. Then with a can-do attitude and zest for justice, Dorothy clicks her red heels and returns to Kansas with a better sense of what home and friendship mean.
It’s about time someone mined the riches of L. Frank Baum’s chronicles of Oz and kudos to David Hayter, who penned the pilot, for choosing that rich field. What better location to tackle the battle between modern good and evil than in Oz with it’s poppy fields of dysfunction: politicking good witches and bad, munchkins too perky before the age of Prozac, and flying monkeys rivaling, nowadays, the Taliban. In a world post-Lord Of The Rings and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I was geared up for more thrilling tongue-in-cheek action-adventure girl style.
Uh, that’s not exactly what’s in store with the pilot episode of Lost In Oz.
Dorothy Gale’s successor in this new WB series is TINA VITTORI, an every-girl who is attractive, popular and smart (ignore that Amanda George who plays Tina is a tad mature-looking for a high school senior). Tina’s boyfriend, AARON, wants to marry her and has proposed with a gorgeous ring. Oxford wants Tina and has offered her a full scholarship to study philosophy (drat, life can be so complicated). The only stain in Tina’s pristine life is her cynical best friend, BRIANNA, who doesn’t have much sympathy for Tina’s problem. That’s understandable; Tina doesn’t quite get how enviable it is to have a scholarship to the world’s top university and the unquestioning love of a hot guy. Nevertheless, something is missing for Tina. She doesn’t know what, which is fine and is sympathetic, because we’ve all experienced some kind of riches and not known what we had until it was no longer within our grasp.
Don’t mistake me – the show’s teaser is fun. Yes, the scene where Tina courageously tries to outrace a tornado in her tin can of a car is cool. Landing in Oz is pretty neat, too. The bodiless knights are menacing; lush foliage and emerald gadgetry are excellent. Not long after the teaser ends, I’m waiting for Tina to show some moxie, kick some butt, strike with searing wit – show us why the girls from Kansas are a threat. I was still waiting at the end.
There’s opportunity but if Tina doesn’t know what to do with it, neither does Lt. Colonel CALEB JANSEN, the other out-of-towner trapped in Oz. There’s potential between these two – is Caleb the requisite romantic interest or is he the wise-cracking sidekick a la Xander in “Buffy”? There’s no chemistry between Caleb and Tina so obviously the guy’s not putting any pressure on Tina to sort out her feelings for the fiancÃ© back home, and Caleb’s one line wit barely cuts through the softest cream cheese (his army nickname is “Scarecrow”), so his role in these adventures can’t be the funny guy. In the pilot, Caleb’s main duties are 1) prevent a catfight between Tina and her other sidekick, NERISSA the Patchwork Girl and 2) resist temptation to use Tina’s one way out of Oz for personal gain.
The most interesting characters are the complex ones – BELLARIDERE, the Good Witch of the South who is teamed up with ALAKHAN, a giant talking tiger. What is curious is the lack of compelling reasons they use to get Tina to do their will (okay, if Tina doesn’t help then Alakhan will make her his dinner). Really, Tina has no choice if she wants to return to Kansas, she’s stuck in Oz and may as well help rid the land of LORIELLIDERE, an even more Wicked Witch of the West than the one Dorothy destroyed. It’s going to take more than a bucket of water to bring down Loriellidere, and Tina’s task is to free OZMA, the one woman brave enough to do it who is imprisoned in Loriellidere’s labyrinth. Personally, if I were Tina I’d be offended Alakhan saw me as little more than chopped liver (literally), that alone would galvanize me into action.
However, Tina just seems to drift, like the plot, through the desolate western fields until she, Caleb and the Patchwork Girl arrive at the labyrinth holding Ozma prisoner. Sure, they have to pass through the sphinx-like guards whose simple riddles seem like child’s play to Tina. Thank goodness, why else did she get a scholarship to Oxford? Too bad the challenges Tina faces fail to make a dent in her psyche about the turmoil she left in Kansas (“yes, I need to marry the man I love” or “No, I must go to Oxford”, even “Can’t I have both? I’m kicking butt already.”). I never doubted Tina and her gang would get out Loriellidere’s clutches, still I enjoyed the few moments of Loriellidere in action – she’s evil, making Tina more heroic for facing her.
I’d like to applaud one very cool, unexpected twist during the showdown between Loriellidere and Tina. Staring down the barrel of a gun at certain death, Loriellidere’s powers start to transfer to Tina, who on Loriellidere’s death will take her place. What’s worse than never leaving Oz? Becoming the next Wicked Witch of the West. That alone made me jump up and think, “Whoa, this show has potential!” Maybe it’s for that reason I found the rest of the episode lacking, there’s so much going on with this series that isn’t exploited in the pilot.
Don’t get me wrong; Lost In Oz is a fun romp. It’s very straight ahead and sadly lacks the ironic bite those familiar with Buffy The Vampire Slayer have come to expect. Still, as the series progresses and the characters find their footing in a new and strange land, Lost In Oz may become the new Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Or even better.
The Lost in Oz pilot is shooting in Australia, with Mick Garris directing.