Donald’s recent review of the new TV series The Event got me thinking about the one scene from that show that I watched, which involved a man attempting to go back to his hotel room to see his girlfriend only to discover that there was no record of his ever having stayed in the hotel and no trace of his girlfriend. This triggered a memory of a 15 year-old series that ran for exactly one full season on the fledgling United Paramount Network. The series, called Nowhere Man, starred Bruce Greenwood as a photojournalist whose life is literally erased after seeing something he wasn’t meant to see.
As I remember it, he goes to dinner with his wife, steps away for two minutes to use the restroom, and when he returns, she has disappeared, and nobody will acknowledge she was ever there. And it only gets worse. When he finally does manage to get back to his house, his wife answers the door with another man at her side, and she claims to have no idea who Greenwood is. And so it goes…
This was, hands down, my favorite TV series at the time. In fact, it was one of the only television series I watched in 1995-96. I pretty much religiously tuned into two shows during that year–Nowhere Man and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Never missed an episode.
I don’t by any means think that every episode was a classic (I remember at least one episode treading into some strange science-fiction territory that felt more like it belonged in the X-Files), but this series handled the constant sense of paranoia possibly better than anything else I’ve ever watched.
I’ve seen it compared to The Prisoner in that it was “too good for television”. I’m not certain I agree with the comparison, since The Prisoner is, to this day, very much “out there”. It continues to be nearly impenetrable (though interesting), even though audiences are far more savvy. Nowhere Man, by contrast, was very accessible, but for some reason, never found a wider audience. It’s clear that Nowhere Man owes much to shows in the vein of The Prisoner, but it also owes a debt to programs like The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive. The major similarity between this show and The Prisoner (apart from, obviously, the major themes of paranoia and isolation) is that it may have been ahead of its time. To be sure, I think Nowhere Man would probably fare better in the post-Lost world.
I just discovered that the complete series (such as it is–a single season with an incomplete a hastily-wrapped-up storyline) has been available on DVD for a few years. I’d love to watch it again to see if it stands the test of time.
YouTube actually has a bunch of episodes, so maybe I’ll watch them sometime. Here’s the first ten minutes of the first episode. Some of the miscellaneous acting is a little iffy, but Greenwood is a reliable actor and a perfect everyman for this series.