February 3rd, 2007

Alien tech

Jake 2.0? More Like The 2.0 Jakes!

In 2003, a year before Veronica Mars hit the scene, UPN aired a show that had nothing to do with Veronica Mars but the fact that it was really good and deserved to be renewed despite low ratings. That show was Jake 2.0. I never saw it, even though I was interested because one of the executive producers was David Greenwalt of Angel fame. But I heard good things from people who did watch. People who, I have discovered upon watching it myself, were left with one hell of a cliffhanger when the show was yanked early. Thanks to SciFi, however, I have made my way through the short-lived series, including three previously unaired episodes.

Is it futile to curse the now-defunct UPN for cancelling a great show, especially when, if they had kept it, they may not have had room to pick up VM?

Jake 2.0 is about Jake Foley, an NSA lab tech who, during a freak accident (aren't they always), becomes infused with nanites. Millions of tiny robots that enhance all his functions. He's the ultimate human upgrade! He has superstrength, supersight, superhearing...I don't think they ever did anything with supersmelling, but he probably has that too. So he's basically the Six Million Dollar Kid, but this is the 21st century, so he has one superpower that gives the show an edge and originality: he can interface wirelessly with all technology. Computers, traffic lights, even espresso machines. If it's controlled by a microchip, he can fuck with it. This is the power that Jake uses most often; sometimes it seems like the show (and Jake) forgets that he can do the other stuff. Which is really okay, since it's a way cool power.

To my surprise, the show reminded me a lot of Alias, what with all the secret spy missions and "hearing things on Echelon" and briefings and undercover, but it makes a lot more sense. Really, once your suspension of disbelief accepts "nanite-infused superdude" into its world, everything else feels pretty darn realistic. You also have to look past the fact that, like, every mission they come up with seems to be tailor-fitted to Jake. "Hey, you're about his/her age! He/she will trust you!" "Hey, could you go in there and disable the security cameras for us? Thanks, buddy!" "Hey, could you go make those guys think you're superstrong?" But that's the way TV works, and I don't care because it's all fun. Besides, it takes 57 muscles to roll your eyes but only 15 to adore Keegan Connor Tracy. And any other hot girl that Jake gets to mack on. There are many! Thank you, television.

The first few episodes are nothing spectacular, but they're just fun. I mean, it's wish fulfillment; who wouldn't want to have all those powers? And the episodes are pretty well written, though sometimes oddly paced, with major twists occurring in the last two minutes, leaving no room for a denoument. It was consistently entertaining and enjoyable, however, and that's worth a lot. Not a bad episode in the bunch. It just made me happy; it was a comfort show.

Plus, the show has a clear visual style, with well-placed slow-motion and fast-motion and an obsession with zooms that makes me think it would have worked better with handhelds. Still, I thought it was notable that the show even had a visual style.

As the show went on, however, it started showing signs of depth, as it explored my pet themes of Finding Out Who You Are and Making the Hard Choices. Jake has to come to terms with his new condition and adjust to being a field agent, and he has to do some questionable things. And he begins to learn that his country does some pretty questionable things. There's a strong arc about the dissolution of Jake's innocence as he struggles with the morals and ethics of what he does.

It's about eight or nine episodes in when Jake 2.0 makes the leap from good to great, and from that point on, the show has a much stronger sense of purpose; it's grown into itself. There are a couple continuing plot arcs that give Jake and Co. some formidable antagonists. And for those of you for whom this is important: there is a classic UST 'ship between Jake and his doctor, Diane, and it's extremely cute and not annoying.

One of the major strengths of the show is a fantastic cast. Christopher Gorham is perfect as Jake, with just the right amount of...well, everything. It's a role that can easily be fucked up if you're too casual or too snarky or too whiny or too clueless, but he's just perfect. Ugly Betty fans should give him a try over here. Keegan Connor Tracy is adorable as Diane, overly protective of her science project/crush. Philip Anthony-Rodriguez is equal mixes tough and kind as Agent Duarte, Jake's partner. And Judith Scott is pretty much tough as nails (yet shows her human side as well) as Jake's boss, Lou Beckett. You grow to love Jake and his team of people who love him, people who will fight the higher-ups when Jake disobeys a direct order for the fifty-thousandth time.

The writers knew the show wasn't going to last more than a season, though, and they had planned out an arc leading to the series finale. An arc that made me say "Holy monkey shit fuck." chaodai explains it here and then OMG POSTS THE OUTLINE FOR THE SERIES FINALE HERE! While I would have loved to see the show go on longer, the plans they had would have made it one hell of a one-season wonder. You couldn't have given them a few more episodes, UPN? Bastards!

So, basically, Jake 2.0 is pretty awesome, and you should check it out. It is proof, yet again, that America doesn't seem to know good television when it hits them.