The Net
The Complete Series

Starring: Brooke Langton
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 34.99
Certificate: 15
Available 15 May 2006

Angela Bennett is a reclusive software engineer, working from home. When she inadvertently stumbles upon information about a secret organisation, called Praetorian, her life becomes a nightmare; her identity is erased and replaced with someone on the FBI's ten most wanted list. With the help of an on-line presence, known only to her as Sorcerer, Bennett must evade the police and the Praetorians who want her dead...

The 1998 television series is based on the surprisingly successful 1995 movie The Net which starred Sandra Bullock. The first and only season of the series ran for twenty-two episodes. For some reason the show, whilst not bad, never really caught on and was cancelled. This, in retrospect, is quite odd as the show, script-wise, was doing just fine if a little derivative So through the first season it did struggle to find its own individual voice. I can only think that it sank beneath a morass of shows with a similar premise. Its legions of voracious fans are fairly desperate to get it back, but then that's the problem. Whilst the writing was good, it was much too like other shows that were on at the time. The show had a wide appeal that should have seen it become successful; you had the hardware for the geeks, a very pleasant lead for the geeks with handkerchiefs and pretty good scripts for the rest of us.

If The Net has a problem it's with its villains and the whole premise of their attack on Bennett. Their general incompetence, in dealing with her, undermines the Praetorians as a credible threat. If she was that much of a recluse surely it would have been easier just to kill her. Lets face it, if you're so anonymous that you can't prove your own existence then if you stage a suicide just who is going to give a monkeys? Especially when the authorities already think she's a wanted criminal. They didn't hesitate to kill the only person who really knew what she looked like in the flesh. The idea that they are reluctant to kill her because they don't know what she knows is a moot point if she has a bullet in the brain. I kept coming over all Scott Evil, just thinking why they didn't just kill her.

The first episode Deleted pretty much follows the film, with a few changes to create a platform for a series. Gone is the loopy mother to be replaced by an enigmatically missing father, a father who provides much of the driving force behind the very fugitive-type storyline. She discovers that her father was part of a think-tank, the members of which are being eliminated. So she's off to find Daddy to get some answers and her life back.

The episodes which follow mine a similar vein. Bennett turns up somewhere, invariably gets into techno-trouble, and has to use her skills to get out of it. Usually there is at least one person who believes in her enough to help. So, in North by Northwestern, a ham fisted Hitchcock reference, it's her defence lawyer after she has been picked up at the airport. In Transplant she finally reaches Chicago, on her never ending quest to track down her father, only to be injured; unfortunately the hospital that she is sent to is engaging in organ transplants under the auspices of the Praetorians. Lets save a bit of time here and agree that anything that happens to her is their fault. In Y2K Total System Failure she's up against the Millennium bug, which to be honest was a complete waste of time, I was there, it was the most disappointing non-event of anyone's lifetime. Death of an Angel sees her tackling the problem of child pornography.

Without going through a blow-by-blow account of each and every episode, and yes I sat through them all, lets just say that the series is slow to get going. Whilst there is an arc of sorts, it's so spread out that it's difficult to become truly engaged in it. Towards the end of the first season there were changes afoot with Bennett having some semblance of protection by becoming a government agent - though it felt a little like they lost faith in The Fugitive premise and thought they would give the X-Files a go. If you forget that, the individual episodes whilst variable would all score over seven out of ten. It's a shame they didn't let it go to a second season - it would have been nice to see where the writers could have taken it without the fear of cancellation.

The cast turn in credible performances but you get the feeling that while the writers were unsure where the show was going this insecurity had an effect on the cast, preventing them from truly spreading their wings and flying in a particular direction.

The discs come with few options; audio can be listened to in English, French or Spanish, and includes subtitles in nine European languages. I presume this great wealth of options is the excuse for the discs containing nothing in the way of extras; the odd commentary wouldn't have gone amiss. Each episode can be selected individually, but there is no option to jump in at any point in the stories. The picture is fine and clear with no print damage or artefacts.

Whilst this wasn't a bad series, it didn't really offer enough that was original in concept or execution. Sure, it was nice to see the Hitchcock references peppered, through the stories, but lets be honest, most of the audience would not have been old enough to know who Hitchcock was. Ultimately, it isn't a bad show; it just never really got a chance to find its own voice.

Charles Packer

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