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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Richard Dean Anderson

Two shows, three eyes, one network
Maureen Ryan, Tribune staff reporter, 07 June 2002

Let's hope the aliens brought sunblock...

Three-eyed creatures usually roam across movie screens in summer, not the small screen, but fans of the TV series Farscape and Stargate SG-1 have reason to rejoice: On Friday, both shows start new seasons on the SciFi Channel.

Stargate, a TV spinoff of the 1994 film, has moved over from Showtime, where it ran for five seasons; it kicks off SciFi's new Friday night lineup at 8 p.m. Farscape is starting its fourth season on SciFi, where it has built a cult audience with its mix of irreverent attitude and risk-taking, complex stories; it airs at 9 p.m.

Bringing the shows together is part of an aggressive bid to increase the profile of both, according to SciFi president Bonnie Hammer. "People in the know think that `Farscape' is one of the best science-fiction productions ever, but it doesn't have the awareness that it should," Hammer said. "We thought if we could bring the `Stargate' audience to us, they might stick around and check out Farscape."

The new block will provide a bigger potential audience for Stargate, at any rate. The show's former home, the Showtime network (which includes Showtime, Flix and The Movie Channel), has a paid subscription base of 32.1 million, while the basic-cable SciFi Channel is now in 78 million homes.

But the pairing also makes a lot of sense from what might be called an attitudinal point of view: Both programs revolve around smart-aleck male characters who aren't fond of playing by the rules. In the season premiere of Stargate, Col. Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), leader of a team that interacts with alien worlds via the titular Stargate, responds to a request from his commander with not just "Bite me" but also "Over my rotting corpse." So much for military discipline.

Keeping things in state of flux...

Stargate also has a new cast member, one who has come on board amid controversy. Last season saw the death of scientist Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), one of the original characters from the film. Hardcore fans organized an online campaign to try to save the character, but in the end, Jackson's character died as Season 5 drew to a close.

Apparently Shanks was unhappy with how his character was being used — or not used, as the case may be — on the show. In an interview in the May issue of British magazine Starburst, Shanks was quoted as saying he thought producers saw the show's supporting characters as "expendable assets."

Anderson, who's also an executive producer of Stargate, says Shanks asked to be allowed to leave.

Until now, "I haven't reacted to any of the articles that have come out quoting him as being embittered," Anderson says. "If he's lashing out and thinking that we fired him, that's unfortunate. Michael asked to get off the show."

Still, as far as Anderson is concerned, there are no hard feelings. Shanks, whom Anderson praises as "a wonderful actor," has already returned to film an upcoming episode, "Abyss."

Though fans may miss Jackson, his replacement already has appeared on the scene: The end of Season 5 saw the introduction of Jonas Quinn, an affable and hunky alien scientist played by Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can't Lose). Despite O'Neill's resistance in the satisfying first episode of the new season, don't be surprised if Quinn ends up donning an SG-1 uniform and joining the team.

Check out the reruns...

Those who are new to Stargate can check out the series' first five years when reruns begin on SciFi in October.

Hammer says she's keen to make potential viewers aware that they don't need to know the intricacies of either show's ongoing plots to check out new episodes.

You can read the FULL article at the Chicago Tribune's own website.

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

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