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Surface (2005-2006)

Do yourself a favor and watch one of the most underrated and tremendously enjoyable television series that no one ever saw.


I’m not one for episodic television.  I’m not sure I’ve outgrown it, as I am still hooked on things like Archer and Venture Brothers but I have outgrown the need to see a lot of things the week they happen (except for Monday Night Raw).  Even favorites like The Colony I had been exposed to on DVD first so I was able to ingest a large chunk at one time instead of waiting to see what happens next week.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I ignore a lot of stuff and am constantly being surprised that I missed something.  Which brings me to Surface.  My pal Gus had this on his Netflix cue and had watched a couple of episodes and I value his opinion greatly so I asked him how it was.  He told me it was worth checking out because it had sea monsters in it.  Now, Gus isn’t into Cthulhu nearly as much as I am and when I am told a series has sea monsters I have to check it out, just to see if there’s a connection.  What I found was an engrossing, character-driven, 15 episode mystery involving sea monsters, the government, a conspiracy of global proportions and a series that ended far too prematurely for my liking.

The show begins with three stories that slowly interlock over the course of the series.  The series opens with teenage Miles (Carter Jenkins) out windsurfing at night past curfew.  He is dumped in the water and his pals pull off a ways to see if he’ll panic.  While he’s treading water, he spies a very Cthuloid form perched on a buoy slide slowly into the water.  Boy, I perked up but, sadly, the threat isn’t Lovecraft’s Deep Ones.  He finds a bunch of strange eggs and decides to take one home and put it in his fish tank.  Of course, it’s an egg from some species heretofore never discovered.  It sort of bonds to him and becomes Miles’ pet, albeit a pet that likes live food and produces strange electrical discharges.  Of course, Miles can’t let his family know, though uber-hot sister Leighton Meester (who, in a Tron rating bonanza, spends many of the first few episodes lounging around their pool in a bikini with her hot friends) is quick to find out.  During the arc, Miles’ love for the animal gets him in deep trouble with animal control and the local police, not to mention his family – coupled with the fact that more of these things are showing up every day in water around the world and people are being killed…

Story two revolves around amazingly attractive marine biologist Dr. Laura Daughtery (the incredible Lake Bell) who is down in a submarine looking at the bottom of a huge trench, a trench she cannot get a fix on because the bottom of the ocean seems to be rising.  Suddenly, her submersible is buffeted by some huge…thing… as it exits the hole.  Something not only bigger than a whale but by all indications something never seen before on this planet.  After being rescued, she begins to attempt to explain more about this new vertebrate and find out it’s origins.  That is until a shady government organization, led by discredited Professor Aleksander Cirko (Rade Serbedzija), arrives on the scene and fakes evidence of plagiarism in her thesis to keep her off the track.  They didn’t know Laura Daughtery very well, assuming (as I did) that she was just some hot single mom who would fade into the distance after this.  Negative.  Her story was one of the most engaging bits of the whole series as she goes on the run as she attempts to bring this new species to light, all the while avoiding the shady government officials.

Insurance investigator Rich Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson) and his brother are spear-fishing around the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  They dive down, chasing a grouper around one of the support columns when a big shadow overwhelms them both.  Rich pulls his brother closer to the pylons for safety but it’s his brother’s first dive and he wants to impress Rich so he spears the big shadow and is instantly drug off to his watery grave.  Rich recovers but he starts receiving strange dream images about his brother to the point his family thinks he needs medical care.  Things change when the body of one of these giant things washes up in  North Carolina and rich drops everything to go and see the connection between this thing and the thing that got his brother.  When he arrives, he finds the government roping the island off because of the “dead whale” and it is here he meets Laura Daughtery.  Their stories intertwine a lot faster than any of the other characters and almost at once they’re on the run from the government, especially CIA thug Davis Lee (Ian Anthony Dale), who plays the thug like no other.  Their goal throughout the series is to capture irrefutable proof of the creatures’ existence, not only to help Laura regain her scientific standing but to prove to Rich’s wife that he’s not crazy and not having an affair with Laura (though, to be fair, he should.  His wife is not understanding nor nearly as attractive as Dr. Daughtery).

As Laura and Rich’s stories spiral together, we are treated to not only Cirko and Lee’s government perspective as occasional segments (and quite fascinating segments they are, as it is here we get clues on what the creatures are, where they came from and why all the hush-up) but also little segments with Lee and a nameless professor (due to spoilers, natch) who seem to know a lot more about the event than even Cirko knows…  The series travels at breakneck speeds but never once sacrifices the mystery or the character-driven storylines.  Laura and Rich are asked to join Cirko’s team, Cirko is killed, they take it on the lam and actually GPS tag one of the creatures.  Utilizing one of Laura’s rich old boyfriends, she and Rich build a submersible and attempt to find out more from the ocean floor and end up stranded.  After a bold rescue, they attempt to get footage on the news.  Miles and his pet become more trouble than they’re worth (because people keep dying) and then his pet is turned over to an oceanographic institute.  Think the trouble is over?  Think again.  I wish I could go on but as of episode 12, a lot of the answers come pouring out and the series progresses even faster toward a watery ending for all concerned and it would spoil a lot of the wonderful things the writers have in store for you but it is also where the series definitely falls short because there should have been four or five more episodes dealing with the aftermath and all the unanswered questions along the way I am forbidden to speak of (like Laura’s old boyfriend being on a certain computer screen long after he’s presumed missing…).

Surface is a wonderfully engrossing mystery as well as being a stellar giant water monster series that ended far too prematurely.  The series moves rapidly, the mystery is wonderful, the events enveloping the characters involve spying, going on the lam, breaking and entering, shady cover-ups, car theft, monster goodness, CIA mucking about, intimidation, personal heartbreak, family dysfunction, lots of beautiful girls in bikinis and, of course, giant monsters.  I wish i could spill some of the stuff that happens in the last few episodes for the sake of discussion but I had several friends over as I finished the series and they got right into it, even after missing a good 9 episodes, and were quite dismayed the series didn’t continue.  Surface is one of those rare shows that comes along that is far better and bigger-budgeted than it ever should have been and will suck you right in even faster than Episode 3’s absolute destruction of Austin’s own Lake Travis sucked me in.  Do yourself a favor and watch one of the most underrated and tremendously enjoyable television series that no one ever saw.  It’s probably too late for a sequel but the 15 episodes that exist are far more enjoyable than I ever figured and I cannot recommend it enough.  Surface.  You have been notified.


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