I watched the first episode of Sci-Fi channel's new mini series "Tin Man" last night. If you're not a Sci-Fi watcher, it's a re-imagining of "The Wizard of Oz" that's more "Zardoz" than Judy Garland. In brief - I liked it. Sci-Fi does a remarkably good job in original production for a basic cable channel. But I want to go into detail on this show if it doesn't bore anyone. And in that regard, I want to consider the casting.
First, Zooey Deschanel as Dorothy, or in a change that's just a bit too precious her character is called "DG." I suppose they had to make a change of some kind but "DG" just doesn't flow. I've known several people who go by 'DJ" and those initials do feel easy on the tongue. "DG" on the other hand, just doesn't work. But that's minor, really. I loved Ms. Deschanel in "Hitchhiker's Guide..." but I am not enamored of her here. She has no presence. She's supposed to be all spunky and whatnot but her character doesn't act consistently. She's shown wading into fights where she'd be at enormous risk with a stick in her hand yet she doesn't fight back when, for example, the flying monkeys come after her.
And yet I don't want to be too negative about her. As I watched the show, I kept trying to think of actresses I'd prefer to see in her place and no one in particular came to mind. So I may just accept the casting decision of the producers and leave it at that. If any reader can suggest alternate casting, please leave a comment. It doesn't help that Kathleen Robertson who plays the evil Azkedellia (the wicked witch character) is a drop-dead gorgeous brunette. And she plays the evil lead just fantastically like a black snake: glossy, beautiful and pure menace. I hope, speaking strictly in my "guy" mode, that we get to see a lot of her work in the future. And she plays her part better than the female lead.
Neal McDonough plays, strangely, the title character. He is discovered in a very steampunk-y (in fact, the production design is very steampunk which is just fine by me) metal "box" where he has been forced to watch a holographic loop on his "arrest" and the torture of his family by Azkedellia's "Longcoats" (the Winkies of the original movie) for many years. He was a policeman (a badge-carrying "tin man") who was part of the resistance against the evil regime and his punishment was the box from which he is rescued by DG and the scarecrow character (called "Glitch" here). McDonough is perfectly cast. He is angry, with a strong dose of capable menace. He is utterly believable in a fantasy which says something about his acting ability. I don't think it was made explicit but I take his "no heart" as having his family, those he loves, torn away from him.
Glitch is played by Alan Cumming who in real life is just too gay for me. I don't care if someone is gay but don't shove it in my face, please (oh, unfortunate metaphor!). He's like Andy Dick without the full-on insane behavior. His character's "lack of a brain" is due to Azkedellia who physically removed a good portion of it and left a zipper in his head. He had been an adviser to the previous queen (and Azkedellia's mother) and his intelligence must have represented a threat so ... no brain. My complaint about the actor aside, he plays his part very well. As he usually does. He may annoy me but he's a very good actor.
And the "cowardly lion" is called "Raw" (a bit clever that) and played by Raoul Trujillo who was last seen as "Zero Wolf" in "Apocalypto." That's a switch. The makeup is excellent and he does as good a job as can be expected swathed in a man/lion suit. I can't fault this casting at all.
Finally, for today, Richard Dreyfuss plays the "Wizard" character who is here called the Mystic Man. No one can doubt his acting chops after having seen him in what seems like a couple of hundred roles since he broke into the biz. And his greying gravitas makes his character come across extremely well. He's not "the great and powerful OZ" in the least. He's a stage magician and has been addicted to a drug by Azkedellia since he had been the source of opposition to her in the past. Shaking that off to help DG and pals is the main action of his role in the first night. I expect that we'll see more of him upcoming which would be good.
It's not perfect but this is another strong entry in Sci-Fi channel's lineup. When they bring back the Battlestar, I'll be happier still.