Bring Him Back

I have been watching with great interest over the last week or so the ascendant campaign to resurrect Frank Black, the lead character of Chris Carter’sMillennium (1996 – 1999).  The Back to Frank Black Campaign with Fourth Horseman Press will soon be launching a book dedicated to the beloved character, as reported by TV Wise. And series star Lance Henriksen himself spoke recently at a convention about his belief that the character will indeed return.

Twentieth Century Fox should be listening to the emerging groundswell, because this is the perfect time to produce a Millennium movie or TV-movie.  Forget the tiresome and inaccurate argument that since the millennium  actually turned in 1999 – 2000 the series is somehow out-of-date or past-its-prime.  The contrary is actually true.   

Stylistically and context-wise, Millennium was actually so far ahead of its time, I would argue, that the world is only now catching up with the concepts Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, and the other writers conceived during the three-year span of the series. 

In terms of story-telling style or approach, consider just for a moment how often Millennium’scomplex formula has been tossed into a blender, ground down to its component parts, and then presented in pieces, to great ratings success. 

For example, the CSI formula of the last decade resuscitates the “forensic investigation” aspects of the Carter series.  Programs such as Criminal Minds ask audiences to travel inside the twisted minds of the most monstrous human criminals, just as Frank Black did on a regular basis.  And series such as Mediumfocused, to a large extent, on the value of unconventional insight in solving crimes.  Millennium brilliantly combined all these threads, plus Frank’s home life, plus the symbolism of the “yellow house.”

Outside of this style, Millennium obsessed on what I call in my book, Terror Television “those shadowy, half-understood fears which affect the human heart and soul.”  The monsters in the series, though sometimes originating from religious mythology, were also, often, human in nature.  Frank faced these human “monsters from the Id” on a weekly basis in the 1990s, but many of the aspects of life that vexed him in the Clinton Era have only grown more pronounced today.

If the 1990s represented the first significant decade of conspiracies run rampant (George Bush I’s “New World Order,” or The Clinton Body Count), then in 2012 the conspiracy mentality is, in fact, on steroids.  Today, we have Birthers, Truthers, Deathers — you name it — and they are all tearing at the fabric of our shared national reality and identity.  Wouldn’t it be nice, once more, to have a man like Frank navigate this shadowy, mysterious world and separate truth from fiction, fact from propaganda?  

The TV program’s fictional Millennium Group was the prime mover of a secret history in the series, but just because the year 2000 came and went without dramatic incident, that doesn’t mean the conspirators would  stop attempting to shape the future. In fact, one sect of the Millennium Group, the Owls, believed the apocalypse will occur in 2020…just eight years distant.  Imagine the plans they must be making, right now, right?

On a connected note, we need gravelly-voiced, insightful Frank Black to pick up his adventures again because of who we have become since Millennium left the airwaves. We seem more divided in 2012 than we have been, certainly, in my lifetime.  Political enemies don’t merely have disagreements anymore, they try to destroy one another.  The person with the loudest voice wins the cable TV sweepstakes and facts become lost in “gotcha” point-scoring. It’s not so much “The Truth is Out There” — as was the mantra of Carter’s The X-Files — but “The Truth is Buried Over There, But Let us Distract You From Finding It.” 

The quality I admired so much about Frank Black, and one abundantly evident in Henriksen’s brilliant, layered portrayal, was his utter lack of susceptibility to such bullshit.  

Even when provoked, Frank didn’t take the bait or grow angry or irrational (unless, of course, his family was actively threatened).  Instead, he was reasonable and stable, and that is, perhaps, a strange thing to write about a character who has suffered a nervous breakdown or two (but who’s counting?).

But perhaps because Frank had seen and understood madness up-close, he had inoculated himself from it on a daily basis. One of the continuing delights of Millennium, even today, is how Frank fails to give his competitors or nemeses the satisfaction of getting a rise out of him.   

To put the matter another way: Frank isn’t worried about how popular he is.  He isn’t worried about pleasing the boss.  He doesn’t concern himself with partisanship or ideology, but instead tries to solve a problem the best he can, in the most reasonable way he can.  Importantly, he isn’t selling anything.  Now it’s not like he’s Mr. Spock or Dexter – Frank clearly possesses strong emotions – but yet he  possesses this equanimity; this sense of wisdom and fairness. He would defend the weak, the voiceless, those assumed guilty.
He is The Calm.  And the rest of the world is The Storm swirling around him.

Mr. Henriksen has spoken eloquently about Frank Black in the War on Terror Age, but I also believe that Frank Black is the perfect hero for America at home, right now, because he possesses these qualities of stability and reason that often seem missing in action. 

In other words — perhaps more than ever – we need Frank Black.  The Time is past near.  It’s now.

If you agree with that sentiment, write a letter and support Back to Frank Black’s campaign:

Michael Thorn 
Senior Vice President for Drama Development 
20th Century Fox Television
Twentieth Century Fox Television
10201 West Pico Blvd
Building 103, Room 5286
Los Angeles, CA 90035


20 responses to “Bring Him Back

  1. We're all of us with you on this, John.

  2. As The Kids say, word. Speaking of kids, I've even got mine digging the show, though their FB imitations sound more like the killer from Thirteen Years Later, heh. To take that a step further, the X-Files was "my show," we all have one or a handful of those (TNG!), but as I've gotten older, and my kids have grown up, one soon to enter her third decade, Millennium has taken on a fresh resonance. Even if one is older and the kids have moved out, we all still search for our own version of the Yellow House in this world of increasing bullshit. That may sound a bit cornball, but the show was just that prescient, and it's something easily related to.

  3. Amen this is who we are

  4. Thanks, Le0pard13. I know you're part of the team, and I'm happy for it! We can do this!

  5. Randal,I love your comment. First, I love that you have passed your love of Millennium onto the next generation, and secondly I concur with you feel that the show has a fresh resonance today. In a world of "increasing bullshit" as you aptly describe it, we do need Frank and his sense of stability and decency more than ever.

  6. Absolutely, coma darkvale! Let's do,John

  7. One of the joys of putting the book together has been how Millennium constantly reveals more and more of itself in terms of characterisation, theme, subtext and nuance, the deeper you examine it. We're seeing the book as both a celebration of the series and also something of a manifesto for what made it and Frank Black so unique, and still so relevant today. Of course the book wouldn't be the same without your involvement, John, so here's to that looming release date!That said, I can always find the time in my schedule to write a few letters.

  8. I really hope they bring him back! Millennium has been my favourite TV show since it first aired. I always thought there were a lot of similarities between that show and Criminal Minds. Certain episodes of CM actually seem to be "borrowed" from Millennium…

  9. Mich,I feel the same way. I feel like you can find resonances of Millennium everywhere on the tube these days. The program was really a pioneer, and all these programs are Millennium's children (legitimate or illegitimate…).Great commentbest,John

  10. A powerful statement and more timely than ever. If there was ever a moment in the post-Millennium landscape to see a vital series return in a most organic and natural fashion the time does seem to be now.That reality will determine if who we are is enough. We're all behind your strong, well-reasoned essay on why we need Frank back in the fold. Best of luck to us all.

  11. Hi SFF:Your reasoning is right. It's a natural time to return to Frank's world, and bringing him back will be about "who we are." I believe we can do it, and with people like you, Mich, Adam, Randal, Le0pard13, James and Troy working on it, I know it will happen.Best of luck to us all is right!best,John

  12. Hi Adam,Yes, Millennium is such a multi-faceted work of art, filled with subtext, nuance, symbolism and even — depending on how you look at it — competing VALID interpretations. That's why I love it so much as a work of art. It's brilliant in so many ways.I am eagerly anticipating the book, my friend, and know it will be a triumph. Can't wait to read it…best,John

  13. John,What a fabulous surprise tonight. James and I were on a call talking about EPK for the big wigs at 20th Century FOX when we saw Adam had linked to your article on our Facebook page. We can't thank you enough for your continued support of this campaign. You have been an invaluable resource and friend to us and we truly thank you.I remember watching the pilot episode back in 1996..after it ended. I remember sitting there, speechless for about 5 minutes trying to digest what I had just seen. Nothing on television at that time even came close to what Millennium was about. So intricate in its story telling, the directing, cinematography and one of the best casts ever. What makes Millennium so great is that it was ahead of its time and you could put it up against anything on television right now and it would do well!

  14. Hi Troy,Troy, I know I speak for the whole movement here when I say how much I appreciate what you and James have accomplished to bring this resurrection closer to reality every single day. You guys are great. It's a pleasure to be involved with anything related to Millennium, because — like you — I feel that it is an intricate and impressive work of art. The program was provocative then, and remains so today, a testament to the good work done by everyone involved.I am happy to lend whatever support I can bring back Frank Black, my friend!best,John

  15. "What makes Millennium so great is that it was ahead of its time and you could put it up against anything on television right now and it would do well!"@ Troy: I'd flat out say, in such a circumstance, Millennium exceeds 95% of things out there today on TV/cable.

  16. I don't think I could've said it any better, John. You've wonderfully put into words why Frank Black is one of my favorite TV characters of all time. Watching the series, with all of its monstrous criminals who did absolutely horrific things, I always felt all would be well once Frank Black was on the scene. He had my trust and confidence and deep admiration. To me, he was the beacon of good and hope in the world. He embodies all the qualities of a great hero and there is no better time for his return.

  17. John excellent statement. In the ‘90s, I gravitated towards Chris Carter’s MILLENNIUM exactly because of the character Frank Black(Lance Henriksen) possessing an attitude like the “no name” gunfighters of Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns of the ’60s and early ’70s. Bring Back Frank Black. He is needed now more than ever.SGB

  18. Hi Aida,Thank your for your kind words. I agree with you about Frank. He had my trust, confidence and deep admiration as well. I like your formulation: he was the beacon of good and hope in the world. We need him back!Great comment!best,John

  19. Hello, SGB, my friend,I love the comparison between Frank Black and the Man with No Name in the spaghetti westerns. It's a comparison that works, as both men have steely glares, and speak only what's important to speak. Great connection…best,John

  20. In reading this I was drawn back to the series as it aired week by week. This was/is a series that I feel set the benchmark for all those that followed, set but never surpassed.

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