“The Invisible Man,” part of Sci-Fi Channel’s savvy No-Repeat Sci-Fi Summer, is a clever blend of science fiction and action with a healthy dose of comedy thrown in. With little to no competition against network repeats on Friday nights, “Invisible Man” should do quite nicely for the cable web, which now boasts a total of 7-1/2 hours of new original programming per week.
Executive producer Matt Greenberg, who penned the script for “Halloween H20,” wrote the series pilot and skillfully sets up the story of Darien Fawkes (Vincent Ventresca). Darien is an incompetent small-time thief with a good heart who is facing a life sentence in prison for repeat offenses.
When his genius scientist brother Kevin (David Burke) offers him a deal to become a test subject for a mysterious government project as a way to avoid prison, Darien reluctantly agrees. He is implanted with the “Quicksilver” gland, which, when activated by adrenaline, renders him invisible.
Quicksilver, however, has some Hulk-like side effects. If Darien stays invisible too long, the implanted gland inactivates his social inhibitors, and he then must take an addictive counter agent to keep the darker forces under control.
Still, plenty of unscrupulous types would kill for such a stealth weapon, and do, sending Darien on a frantic search for answers and possibly a cure for his addiction to the counter agent. Much to his surprise, most of the answers are with a mysterious guy known only as the Official (Eddie Jones), who works out of the Department of Fish and Game.
Greenberg’s script is peppered with the kind of acerbic humor that makes “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” such a perfect blend of comedy and horror. And like those shows, laughs are used to offset the more violent aspects of the stories. It’s a delicate balance, and, for the most part, director Breck Eisner keeps things pretty even.
The pilot episode, clocking in at two hours, could have easily been streamlined, especially since a majority of the characters introduced, many who appeared to be series regulars, meet a creative end, so to speak. That doesn’t leave a very big supporting cast, although Ventresca is appealing enough to carry most of the show.
Ventresca, perhaps best known as “fun Bobby” from a string of appearances on “Friends,” has created a deceptively complex character in Darien who, with his trademark line, “Oh, crap,” and his menacing alter ego, has laid the groundwork for some interesting character development.
Paul Ben-Victor as Hobbes, Darien’s bitter partner in agency dirty work, is a little much as the most blatant comic relief character drawn since Sean Hayes’ Jack on “Will & Grace.” But every once in a while Ben-Victor underplays the joke and hits it dead on.
Cutting-edge special effects by Gary Monan, Terry Frazee, Donald Frazee and Richard Monan continue to raise the bar for television, whereas music by Jonathan Elias and Jimmy Haun smacks of a ’70s retro action series when funky or progressive would play much better with the show’s sensibilities.