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‘Dark Angel’

'Titanic's' Cameron moves to TV sci-fi to help net from drowning

Fox is praying an angel will help lead it out of its Tuesday night ratings hell this fall.

More precisely, the net is betting on “Dark Angel,” a futuristic sci-fi actioner from a producer with a pretty solid track record for success: James Cameron. The man behind “Titanic” and “T2” has decided to make the move into television, and if the result is even 1/10th as successful as his last pic, Fox execs will be mighty happy.

While the per-episode budget on “Dark Angel” is minuscule compared to how much he spent on “Titanic,” Cameron isn’t feeling any creative constraints. Just the opposite, in fact.

“It’s like this big novel,” Cameron told reporters in July. “It’s got this backstory: It’s very rich, very complex. So for me, it’s a 13-hour movie. It’s not a limitation. It’s an expanded canvas.”

As he did with Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Furlong, Cameron is once again turning to a virtually unknown young thesp to help carry a project. In “Dark Angel,” it’s Jessica Alba, who plays a genetically rewired human female named Max who has superhuman abilities.

Set 20 years into the future, the plot of the series has the super-tough Max escaping from her military bosses in search of her other science experiment siblings. She’s helped by a crusading cyberjournalist (Micahel Weatherly.)

“Jessica’s extraordinary,” says Charles Eglee, who created and exec produces “Dark Angel” with Cameron. The two producers actually found Alba before penning the show’s two-hour pilot.

“We had the benefit of being able to write a script kind of backwards. We were writing for this actress,” Eglee says.

While “Dark Angel” promises to be visually stunning by small screen standards, Cameron doesn’t want his first TV show to be known for its special effects.

“There are just some things we can’t do. We can’t do 300 special-effects shots in an episode,” says the helmer. “(But) in a way, that can be very freeing because you set that whole part of yourself aside and say, ‘OK, fine, I’m not going to go down that road. I’m not going to be that effects gear-head. I’m just going to be the writer.”

Success in the film world doesn’t always carry over to the small screen, as Steven Spielberg can attest (remember “Amazing Stories”?) Cameron, however, says he’s going into “Dark Angel” with un-“Titanic-like expectations.

“Television is a very Darwinian process,” he says. “I mean, if it flies, it flies. If it doesn’t it doesn’t. If people connect with it, which we believe that they will, then fine. We’re in business. If they don’t, and we don’t find an audience, then we deserve to be off the air. It’s that simple.”

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