Millennium vs. Profiler II

Essay by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

Profiler, having been deservedly renewed by NBC for another season, continues to evolve with dynamic narratives that outshine the tired meanderings of Millennium. This week's episode, "FTX: Field Training Exercise" is a case in point.

Whereas Frank Black continues to be the focus of Millennium and chasing the killer-of-the-week, Sam Waters is placed in situations that fall outside of Profiler's own genre. "FTX: Field Training Exercise" was an 'internal affairs'-type episode, with the head of the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force (VCTF), Bailey Malone, being investigated after the identity of an undercover agent is blown, who is subsequently killed by the Mafia. It was also a 'clips' show, but done in a manner that really didn't make it seem like one of those (in other words, it wasn't as lame as it would have been had it been The Facts of Life), drawing on the events and mythos established during Profiler's first season. Whereas Millennium has pretty well fallen into a pattern that will put you to sleep by the fourth act, Profiler continues to provide innovative entertainment, with such an episode. Two weeks prior, Profiler stepped out of its genre again, in "Crisis", which had Sam use her profiling skills in a hostage situation perpetrated by a pacifistic scientist demanding unilateral nuclear disarmament. It was slam-bang entertainment that kept you at the edge of your seat-- I'll never forget the image of Sam looking into the camera, about to be executed in retaliation for another failed deadline.

"FTX:FTE" also focused on the peripheral characters of the VCTF, making revelations as to their backgrounds in a series of thematically-similar B-stories. The tension in Bailey's relationship was increased after it was revealed that his girlfriend's estranged husband is one of the lead investigators of the internal investigation, further complicating Bailey's touch-and-go relationship with his chiefs at the Bureau. Brubaker's wife showed up serving divorce papers, having found their lives incompatible with their jobs. And Grant was found to have familial Mafia links. Even Jack-of-All-Trades (or simply 'Jack') was subject to this scrutiny, in an interesting sequence where he is not planning his next devious plot against Sam or the VCTF-- no, he was doing his tax return. Now contrast this with Millennium. Do we know anything about Bletcher? Or Peter Watts? Or that nosy neighbour that asks lots of questions (I think he's the one sending the polaroids to Frank!)? Do we know anything about the Millennium Group, the internal politics, or possible hidden agendas? No. Zilch. Nada. Granted, they have been getting better, with stories focusing on Catherine. But still... there's a lot of untapped potential in these peripheral characters. Millennium has been slow to develop, and compared to a fresh and evolving show like Profiler, seems to be standing still. Whereas the development of the mythology arc in Millennium has been sketchy at best, Profiler, in one season, has created three-dimensional characters for the entire ensemble cast and come up with a detailed mythology about Jack and then turned it upside-down mid-season to keep you off kilter.

Finally, Profiler has a whole different 'look' to it. Whereas Millennium uses the cinematic approach much like its sister series "The X-Files", with the well-conceived crane, dolly and tracking shots, Profiler supplements this visual narrative style with more rapid editing, jump-cuts, cropping, and colour filters, creating a style that is a cross-between the MTV-school-of-film-making and the 'Homicide' look (named after the 'gritty documentary look' of Homicide: Life on the Street). This aspect of Profiler is another reason why I can stay awake for the entire duration of Profiler, without nodding off like I do with Millennium.

So it will be interesting to see how Profiler continues to grow over the next season. As for Millennium, recently Chris Carter has been told by Fox execs to redefine the formula at least a couple times, to focus more on 'spiritual' stories. It's quite interesting to see how two shows with essentially the same premise have taken quite different paths in the past year.

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