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20th Century Fox presents
The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series (2001)

"You guys fight the lost causes. I want to help."
- Jimmy Bond (Stephen Snedden)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 30, 2005

Stars: Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund
Other Stars: Zuleikha Robinson, Stephen Snedden, Mitch Pileggi, Michael McKean, Tom Poston, Jim Fyfe, David Duchovny
Director: Rob Bowman, Bryan Spicer, David Jackson, Richard Compton, John T. Kretchmer, Vincent Misiano, Carol Banker

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 11h:00m:00s
Release Date: March 29, 2005
UPC: 024543167556
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-BB A-

DVD Review

As a rabid fan of The X-Files—well, at least until those final couple of seasons, when I tuned in more out of habit than enjoyment—I always looked forward to the occasional guest appearance by Special Agent Fox Mulder's wacky conspiracy-crazed trio of geeky pals, The Lone Gunmen: the well-dressed leader Byers (Bruce Harwood), scruffy Scully-loving Frohike (Tom Braidwood), and long-haired hacker Langly (Dean Haglund), all creations of the brilliant writing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong. The paranoid rants and sweeping conspiratorial beliefs of Byers, Frohike, and Langly almost made Mulder look conservative, and their presence generally indicated a temporary infusion of much-appreciated dark comedy in a series that eventually became a bloated, confusing gasbag of conflicting information.

When the inevitable spinoff series was launched in the spring of 2001, lasting just one-half season, it was the equivalent of giving a sit-com's wacky neighbor their own show. Concerns over the dilution of seeing popular supporting characters now as leads was all the buzz on X-Files message boards, and despite the popularity of The Lone Gunmen as characters themselves, thrusting them to the forefront seemed like a desperate act, akin to tossing triplets off the deck of a sinking ship, and the series' short run more or less proved that point. As much as I loved the characters, this ill-timed distortion of The X-Files universe just projected the wrong vibe at the wrong time.

Time, though, often has a funny way of sometimes making a misstep from the past look better, and with the release of The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series it is now possible to revisit all 13 episodes (as well as The X-Files' Jump the Shark episode, included here as not just an extra, but as a proper coda to the series and the characters) without the parallel comparisons to the now extinct parent series. And I have to say, like a good bottle of wine, this one has actually aged quite nicely.

All of the expected conspiracy angles are covered here in one manner or another, from animal experiments to killer Nazis to labyrinthine governmental coverups, but the tone is somehow lighter and certainly funnier; plus the addition of two regular supporting characters—the slightly dim Jimmy Bond (Stephen Snedden) and sexy nemesis/sometime partner Yves Adele Harlow (Zuleikha Robinson) in hindsight helped to really flesh out the show's structure as more than just a "conspiracy of the week", and to simply prevent it from being all Byers, Frohike and Langly all the time.

But let's talk weird, truth-is-not-always-stranger-than-fiction parallels for a moment. Look at the pilot episode, which originally aired in March 2001, and its climactic U.S. government conspiracy about a plan to crash a fully loaded passenger plane into the World Trade Center in order to help create a new global villain to boost arms manufacturing. While Byers, Frohike and Langly miraculously prevent the tragedy at the last possible moment, the visual of seeing a commercial airliner just barely missing one of the towers is chilling and downright spooky.

Even though the series was unveiled at what was truly an unfortunate time, the indelible mark of The X-Files is still evident throughout, from the clever, snappy dialogue of regular writers Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban, to the evocative theme music from Mark Snow, and even the almighty Chris Carter himself contributed to the pilot ep. And now that The X-Files has thankfully ceased to be, and all of the convoluted, unresolved mythology baggage that eventually came with it has largely been forgotten, it is possible to take a second chance on Byers, Frohike and Langly (and of course the lovely Yves Adele Harlow) with this two-disc set from Fox.

The time is most definitely right.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Kudos to Fox on the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment of The Lone Gunmen for this release, and the transfers are devoid of any major blemishes, save for minor specking here and there. Black levels get slightly thick at times, most notably on the interior scenes of the Gunmen lair, but daytime colors are rendered nicely, though the whole series has that slightly processed look that The X-Files often had, with bright and vivid replaced by industrial and metallic tones.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Nothing too flashy in the audio department, with fairly standard 2.0 Dolby Surround (in English or Spanish) being your listening choices. The Mark Snow score, especially during the title sequence, sounds deep and full, but the sometimes mumbly dialogue sometimes lacks clarity and crispness.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 195 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Rob Bowman, Robert McLachlan, Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Bryan Spicer, Stephen Snedden, Zuleikha Robinson, Thomas Schnauz
Packaging: Thinpak
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are five commentary tracks on as many episodes, featuring rotating combos of Rob Bowman, Robert McLachlan, Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Bryan Spicer, Stephen Snedden, Zuleikha Robinson, and Thomas Schnauz. Aside from getting to hear an accent-free Robinson (another fantasy shattered), the tracks are fairly laconic and soft-spoken, with the tracks from the production staff (Bowman, Spicer, Spotnitz, Gilligan, Shiban) offering the meatiest info about the series in general, while the tracks with the cast the typical light-hearted recollections.

Disc 3 houses the very well done and recommended Defenders of Justice: The Lone Gunmen Story (39m:15s) featurette, a solid and fact-crammed retrospective of the series, casting, origins, direction, including the planned demise of Frohike at the end of The X-Files's fourth season at the hands of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Disc 3 also contains a set of four television teasers.

Each episode is cut into 15 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Now that The X-Files is dead and buried, the prospect of being able to revisit the standalone antics of the Lone Gunmen seems infinitely more enjoyable than it was back in 2001, when this short-lived series seemed to only further dilute a show that was in its death throes.

All 13 episodes are here, plus the full Jump the Shark ep from The X-Files run, featuring the return of Byers, Frohike, and Langly, and making a very complete package indeed.

Highly recommended.

 


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