Emerald City

7.3 Overall Score
Writing: 6/10
Production: 8/10
Performances: 8/10

Some strong performances, and high production values.

It didn't stand out in a crowded market.

Emerald City
Stars: Adria Arjona, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu
2016 – 2017
NBC

Consider the fate of Emerald City, and what it says about the final global geek victory.

NBC green lit a great big fantasy series loosely based, mostly inspired by, borrowing heavily from, at least stealing the names of some of the principle characters from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

This genesis is puzzling. Yes, HBO has gobbled up all the money in the world with Game of Thrones, and decades-old universes like Marvel and Star Wars stamp out giddy wealth and wild cachet. So NBC wanted a piece of that. But Oz? Where do children clamor for Oz? Where do adults wear Dorothy costumes except to sex parties? Oz hasn’t been a major hit on a screen since Judy Garland in ‘39. James Franco couldn’t really get the balloon up in Oz The Great and Powerful. Dorothy from Kansas is Alice’s country cousin, and Tim Burton couldn’t make Alice Through The Looking Glass work. There were plenty of signposts reading STOP.

But NBC followed the yellow brick road anyway, and they followed it hard, pouring money and prestige into a reboot that’s barely recognizable as Baum. The source material is a children’s book—in the reimagining, Mistress West is a whoremaster. There are sets and locations and special effects. The characters of Tip, Jack the Tin Man, and the masked Princess of Ev were very intriguing. And they got Vincent D’Onofrio to play the wonderfully, savagely insecure Wizard of Oz.

But nobody watched, and it got cancelled after one season. No one wanted to visit Emerald City. But why? If this show had débuted in 1995, it would have been a tornado spinning through fandom. But in this golden age of speculative fiction, when all of the very biggest entertainments are science fiction and fantasy, where Atlanta is most famous for hosting Dragoncon and pundits and comedians use GoT to explain the Trump cabal, Emerald City was a monkey too small to claim its piece of the sky.

We geeks now command networks to lay whole seasons at our feet, and when we command that it be taken away, it is taken away and disposed of. Emerald City is our imperial city, from whence we survey the culture that we have conquered.

 

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Brian Downes
Author: Brian Downes View all posts by
Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through Amazon.com. He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke's father. You can't trust Vader's word!

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