21 February 2004 | webmistress-1
The American Red Dwarf ... Made By Canadians and Germans
My husband and I first caught Lexx during a marathon on the Sci-Fi channel in 2000. Up until that point, Sci-Fi's ad campaign was so wretched that neither of us bothered to watch the show. Although the episodes in the marathon didn't make a lot of sense (Sci-Fi aired the Season 2 episodes out of order) we were hooked by the black humor, the funky music, and the show's overall stylishness.
I think the show was a lot smarter than most people realize.
In a nutshell, Lexx is the American Red Dwarf. Fans of Red Dwarf know that the British creators once tried to sell the show to a US network ... and failed. Attempts at Americanizing Red Dwarf included adding more sex and "adventure" to the show while keeping the jokes and action squeaky clean. It didn't work. But Lexx succeeded where Red Dwarf failed by being hip and gritty.
Of the first four Lexx movies only the first and fourth are truly must-see material. The middle episodes feature fun cameos but don't really advance the plot ... they've always felt like filler designed to stretch out the production budget. But the first and last movies are sci-fi gems. Funny, sick, and slick all at the same time, they really solidified the mood of the show.
Episode for episode, Season 2 IS the heart of Lexx. The season offers up the most spot-on humor and the most interesting plots. The season bore a few misses (the hillbilly episodes mainly) but the shows are consistently enjoyable if you appreciate the bizarre. The running gag in which every new character introduced dies by the end of each episode never turns stale. The main characters grow with the plot throughout the season. There's even a thoroughly enjoyable MUSICAL episode toward the end (my favorite Lexx episode).
Season 3 was a complete misfire. I'm surprised Lexx survived to see a fourth season ... that how weak Season 3 is. A plot that should have lasted two episodes is stretched into an entire season. All of the character growth seen in Season 2 is tossed out the window. The episodes drag out via poor pacing, asinine logic, and de-emphasized humor. And the season only got worse as it went along. I didn't enjoy Season 3 when it aired, and it still sucks on DVD ... especially when compared to every other incarnation of Lexx.
Season 4 was a worthy successor to Season 2 and a return to form. It's a shame that the fourth season based several plot threads on the third season because, ideally, viewers should be able to skip Season 3 altogether. While the fourth season isn't as strong as the second, it comes pretty damned close. I was skeptical about the "Lexx comes to modern earth" theme... but through creativity and a keen sense of satire, Lexx's creative team pulled off a plot device that no other Sci-fi show has been able to successfully tackle (re: Battlestar Galactica 1980). There are some episodes that go nowhere (sadly the prison episode, which employs two actors from Red Dwarf, is one of the most disposable episodes) and the characters go through the exact same growth pattern seen in Season 2. But I give the creators props for having the balls to inject caustic anti-American sentiments into the season ... given the post 9-11 culture in which they were released AND the fact that it was the first incarnation of Lexx to be heavily promoted in the US. Sometimes the anti-American elements are too heavy-handed and belie a superficial grasp of US culture, but that's OK. It works more than it doesn't. The creators did a much better job at managing a continuing storyline than they did in previous seasons ... culminating in a truly rousing and tragic conclusion.
I also applaud the creators for ending their pet project decisively. Sure, there MIGHT be another Lexx someday, but the conclusion of Season 4 didn't leave any loose ends or nagging issues.
Warts and all, Lexx stands as one of the most interesting and innovative sci-fi shows ever attempted. I have a feeling that this show will grow more popular with the passage of time.