The French-Canadian series about the American secret agent that was a hit in France and a failure in Canada has it’s American debut after much delay. XIII is a series about a man known only by the Roman numeral he was assigned. XIII (Stuart Townsend) is a skilled and lethal secret agent who escapes from an Eastern European Rendition Camp with a surgically altered face and an identity handed to him by a mysterious stranger. Recruited to a secret organization committed to bringing down the United States Government, XIII has no memory of his past, how he was trained or why. Hunted by a dark anti-government organisation, he quickly realises that the closer he gets to uncovering the riddle, the more complex and deadly the mission becomes. While living through an ever-evolving government conspiracy, XIII’s quest is to discover his true identity at any cost.
The series is based on Jean Van Hamme’s adrenaline-fueled graphic novels, which have sold more than 13 million copies worldwide since the first volume was published over 25 years ago. The preceding mini-series from 2008 starred Stephen Dorff as XIII, hence the bit about the surgically altered appearance. A few other characters wer re-cast for the show. While not required to understand it is helpful to have seen the min-series first. It is available on DVD and BD in both the full 3 hours and an edit that brings it down to more of a theatrical feature length. Experience has proven that the cover art will not necessarily be accurate when stating which version is contained on the enclosed disc. The “Triple Feature – Action” BD is one such case, claiming to have the 3 hour version but actually containing the 128 minute edited version.
The mini-series has one logo in the video that is also used for the French DVD and BD releases and another used for the American DVD release. The first season has a logo that is used in both the video and by Canadian and French broadcasters. It is supposed to be crisp and definitive. The American broadcaster has taken that logo, removed the shattering effect, squished the characters to the point of slightly overlapping, added a gradient, and added a soft shadowing to the edges.
If the subtle-to-some change of logo wasn’t enough then how about the renaming of the episodes? The pilot is being called both “Episode 101″ and “Episode One”. The second episode is titled “Green Falls” but odds are Reelz will be calling it “Episode Two”. Quite a few British shows simply have titles like that. The actual episode titles for Being Human were published some years after the show started. But stripping away episode titles in favour of chronological numbering names seems backward.
And to top it all off, despite being more than a year after the French broadcast on France’s Canal+ and the English broadcast on Canada’s MysteryTV (SD) and Showcase (SD & HD) we have Reelz claiming it is an original series of theirs. Series? Yes. Original to their channel? O seriously, come on! NBC broadcast the mini-series in the US; Canal+ and Shaw’s predecessor were the broadcasters of the mini-series in their respective countries and continued with the show. And it was a made for them in the first place. Apparently the word “original” means something entirely different in the US from the rest of the world.
From the Reelz press release:
XIII was developed and produced by Jay Firestone’s Prodigy Pictures and Luc Besson’s French production company EuropaCorp Television (La Femme Nikita).
That does read like EuropaCorp made La Femme Nikita doesn’t it? Well Jay Firestone did make the show before he started Prodigy Pictures but EuropaCorp has never had a single thing to so with LFN before that press release.
While not impressed by the plethora of tiny errors and changes made by Reelz they don’t affect the actual show. Reelz for some reason feels the need to promote the show as the product of mashing the Jason Bourne series with that of the tv show 24. The Jason Bourne novels were written about the same time as the XIII graphic novels so it’s not like one copies from the other. Both involve American secret government agents seeking to learn who they really are whilst exposing international conspiracy and corruption. Neither are of the pace seen in 24.
XIII stars Stuart Townsend, Aisha Tyler, Stephen McHattie, Ted Atherton, Virginie Ledoyen, Greg Bryk, and Caterina Murino. Showrunner Gil Grant wrote the season 1 premiere which was directed by John Stead & Duane Clark. Production is under-way on the second season with filming scheduled to be completed by 18 July.
If you are in the US you can see XIII on Reelz beginning 29 June. If you are in Canada you can buy the first season on iTunes any time you feel the urge to; it was shown on Showcase beginning in late April 2011.