La Femme Nikita
Having missed a good part of the original La Femme Nikita series when it was broadcast, and noting it was often referred to as an example in production discussions, I bought the original, five-year series and reviewed it.
I can see how the casting, script, filming, editing, and music elements made the original TV series a hit.
The technical elements hold up amazingly well over the decades since it was filmed. In fact, some are still valid and even credible promises for the future.
In addition to the technology angle, there are five additional elements that not only made the TV series successful, but altered the
entire direction of dramatic production. Here are five points that come to
1. The series introduced a highly condensed style of writing dialogue. The approach was, don't say it if you can show it or the audience can figure it out.
Every unnecessary word was removed from the dialogue, which meant that things could move much faster. Editing decisions coupled with fleeting expressions from actors often suggested content and story.
2. Second, available light photography, rather new for the time, was used to provide a new level of realism. One of the directors (who presumably was in the appropriate union) did some of his own cinematography.
3. Having a female action lead was new and risky (even though it thereafter quickly became commonplace). The success this TV series is widely credited to Peta Wilson, an inexperienced female lead at the time who helped break new ground for women. Nikita was a gutsy and highly demanding role. The fact that Wilson insisted on doing most of her own stunts added considerable credibility to the role.
4. Not mentioned in Module 5 was the dark, untrusting and often depressing environment that pervaded almost every element of the La Femme Nikita stories.
Some people have noted, that although exaggerated, the series reminds them of a modern-day, highly competitive work place. In La Femme Nikita this was taken to a life-and-death level where you could trust no one at any time, even those who were supposedly your friends.
5. Finally, the series routinely grappled with complex and vexing, the-lesser-of-the-evils moral issues.
In the spy word of La Femme Nikita associates or even friends were expendable (and often expended) Anything or any means justified the ends. The series painted a chilling and unsettling spy world.
The ideas in the original La Femme Nikita TV series may be "old hat" now (they were widely copied), but they represented relatively new concepts at the time.
As I write this a totally new Nikita series on the CW Network, which stars Maggie Q, has been renewed for a third season.
Although the new Nikita looks nothing like the blond, blue-eyed La Femme Nikita in the original TV series, the basic story formula is obviously still viable.
The new Nikita is of Vietnamese and Irish-American descent. She grew up in Hawaii and was a fashion model in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong before moving to film and TV.
The original show's impressive home base (Operations Control) setting was scaled way back in the new series, but the constant on-location fight scenes definitely weren't.
Viewers tend to make decisions rather early with new series, and although there were improvements in the scripts and acting as the new series went along, the ratings had dropped off. But at least as of June, 2012, CW has stuck with the series, affording it a chance.
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