"Over the last 60 years 4400 people have been abducted. All at once they were returned. With no memory of where they've been. They haven't aged a day. And some have returned with new abilities. All are trying to reconnect... with a life interrupted."
Such is the basis of The 4400, a show that, similar to Battlestar Galactica, started out as a five episode miniseries. In the first few minutes of the show, the basic premise is established. We see a few different people at different times throughout the world looking up as a bright white light seemingly snatches them away. We cut to the present day where we meet characters affected by those losses, carying on their day-to-day lives. Various background televisions tell us that a comet will soon be passing by Earth. Then, it seemingly changes course, headed right towards. As the government scrambles to respond, including attempting to nuke it before it hits our atmosphere, the "comet" surprises us yet again by slowing down. It "lands" in Seattle. Instead of a comet, it turns out to be a big ball of light. In a flash, it disappears... leaving 4400 hundred people who have disappeared in the last 60 years in its place. The series follows these people trying to restart their lives.
The 4400 is a unique show among my choices in that it's ultimately my favorite show conceptually. What would happen if 4400 people just appeared? The governement's first reaction is to arrest them all and put them in quarentine. I like that a lot because it's probably what would really happen. Who knows where these people came from? They have no memory of where they were while they were gone. None are any older than they were before. They are from all over the world, too. Some have been gone for three years, others have been gone for 30. The miniseries establishes that this entire event has fundamentally changed everything about the country and the world. Take for instance a mother named Lily who disappeared when her child was six months old. She returns over a decade later and wants to see her daughter. Her husband, who has since remarried and has another child with his new wife, doesn't want Lily in his life anymore. As a lawyer, he manages to get a restraining order against her because there is no legal precedent to prevent him from not doing so. That's pretty messed up.
Oh yeah, and some of them can do things.
For instance, Maia, a young blonde girl from the 60s, knows the future. She doesn't really see it... she just knows what's about to happen. Or there's Shawn, a high schooler who has trouble re-adjusting to his life after being gone for three years. After getting into a fight with a school bully, he is shocked to discover that his touch actually begins killing his opponent... and equally freaked out to discover he can heal people, too, by using this newfound ability in reverse. Not all of these powers are as useful, however; and The 4400 does a good job of presenting people with less than desirable "abilities" when it came back for a second season. For example, in the episode "Weight of the World," we meet Trent Appelbaum, a failure of a salesman who discovers his saliva has the ability to make people lose weight. He tries to patent his ability, and during the first clinical trial, it's discovered that his saliva actually destroys a person's ability to process food, eventually leading to malnutrition and death.
You may recognize Joel Gretch from V as Tom Baldwin, one of the agents assigned to investigate the 4400. Scott Peters, who previously worked on a revamped The Outer Limits, developed both V and The 4400 for television. The 4400 also makes several oblique references to other sci-fi shows, such as "two govenrment agents investigating the weirdness" being an obvious nod to The X-Files. Trent Appelbaum was played by Robert Picardo, perhaps best known for his role as a holographic doctor on Star Trek. If you check out one show this summer, make it The 4400.
Public Space, Above and Below (Audio)
Carol St. Pierre (Audio)
Wole Soyinka (Video)
Harold Bloom (Video)
A.B. Yehoshua (Video)
Mark Salzman (Video)
Backstage with COLM TOIBIN (Video)
Backstage with Karen Armstrong (Video)
Derek Walcott (Video)
Zadie Smith (Video)
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Video)
Backstage with Edwidge Danticat (Video)
Backstage with SLAVOJ ZIZEK (Video)
Jay-Z: Decoded (Video)
KEITH RICHARDS: Life (Video)
JOHN WATERS: Role Models (Video)
A Tribute to GEORGE CARLIN (Video)
FERRAN ADRIA: A Day at el Bulli (Video)