Revisiting PANDEMIC (2007 Mini-Series) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Revisiting PANDEMIC (2007 Mini-Series)

Matthew Kresal takes a timely look back at Pandemic.

In the age of cable, the miniseries format got something of a second life. Even as network TV abandoned them, they thrived on many a channel. 2007's Pandemic, the winner of a WGA award for its script the following year, is one such example of the format's re-invention. Not to mention one that has, with recent events, been getting a much deserved second life of its own.

Dealing with a flu outbreak, which comes to be known as the Riptide Virus, there are plenty of echoes of what’s happening now. There's a team of doctors trying to contain the disease, often struggling with both patients and political leaders. There are scenes of panic buying and profiteering. The miniseries also shows what happens when members of the public choose to ignore warnings, breaking quarantines to get on with their lives. There's even a group of conspiracy theorists who end up insisting that the government is up to nefarious ends, despite all the evidence. We also get to see versions of what governments are now terming social distancing and see characters in self-isolation. And, in one scene that’s become eerily prophetic thanks to reports from Spain, the use of an ice skating rink as a makeshift morgue. It's clear that writer's Bryce and Jackie Zabel did some homework going into this, and it benefits the production, in particular with hindsight.

Pandemic has other things going for it, of course. One of which is its large ensemble cast, taking in all sorts of perspectives. They range from Tiffani Thiessen's CDC scientist to French Stewart as her colleague, Eric Roberts as the mayor of LA, Bruce Boxleitner as his political advisor, Robert Curtis Brown as a slimy realtor whose cockiness helps spread the virus further, and Faye Dunaway as the Governor of California. The direction of Armand Mastroianni adds much to the piece, such as the series of quick cuts that visually show the journey of the Riptide Virus from an Australian beach onto the streets of LA. The score from veteran composer Kevin Kiner, while louder than it needs to be in places thanks to the mix, adds tension to the proceedings neatly as well. Given the made for TV budget, it looks and sounds pretty good across the three hours.

Not that the miniseries isn't without its faults, however. At three hours, it's perhaps inevitable there are parts of the Zabel's script that don't hold up or seem contrived. One particular subplot, involving Michael Massee as a drug baron who not only happens to be on the same flight as patient zero but who gets busted out of quarantine, only to then steal the anti-viral drug needed to fight the outbreak, comes across as convoluted. Indeed, it's purpose seems to be adding both a couple of action sequences and the overall running time. Others seem to fizzle out despite the attention given to them, like the aforementioned conspiracy theorists, for example. There's some casting that doesn't quite work too, such as Vincent Spano's FBI agent whose performance comes across as stiff and a little cliched, and some of the smaller supporting roles suffer in places from that as well. None of these are fatal flaws, by any means, though they do keep the miniseries from being better than it is.

On the whole, though, Pandemic is a solid miniseries. From a smart script to its ensemble cast and some neat moments of direction, there's plenty to recommend it for across its three-hour running time. Indeed, even with its flaws, it remains an immensely watchable, and at times unsettling, piece of work.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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