I had seen a lot of mediocre-to-negative buzz around this Sci-Fi Channel miniseries - maybe with good reason, since Sci-Fi hasn't exactly covered themselves in glory recently, preferring crappy lowball movies and the occasionally wrestling show to anything really sci-fi related. But it's only three episodes long, and since nothing else this fall has really captured my attention, I decided to give it a shot.
So far - not too bad.
Yeah, a lot of the pleasure is just in spotting the references back to the original source material - the Outer Zone or "O.Z." for Oz, the "zipperhead" for the Scarecrow, and so on. There's also new material added to the original story - but so far, it seems to be a fairly standard issue "lost princess - evil sister - missing relic" type fantasy story. I'm expecting to see things expand a bit, if for no other reason that it needs to fill out another four hours of screen time. But the fact that the story is called Tin Man makes me wonder how exactly that character will be fleshed out - he's got a backstory, more than the Scarecrow or Lion so far, but not enough to have the entire show named after him.
Actor-wise, things are pretty good, with Alan Cummings standing out as the Scarecrow-analog Glitch. The weak link in the cast is unfortunately the lead, Zooey Deschanel. She seems to have just one expression - a wide-eyed distant stare - but she matches it with a kind of above-it-all, barely-there acting style. It's not as if she's playing it as a goof, or as a self-aware person who knows she's in the middle of a fairy tale. She's just doesn't seem really involved in anything. And boy, Richard Dreyfus sure has expanded recently - Jaws would need two bites to get him down, now. The design and effects are also mostly OK, although there is some dodgy CGI (especially with the flying monkeys appearing at the end of part one).
Altogether, it's enough to keep me watching into part two. Now that the interest of "spot the reference" has largely ended (although the ruby slippers have yet to make an appearance), it'll be up to the story to keep things going - let's see if they can manage.