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Harsh Realm (Fox 1999, Scott Bairstow, D.B. Sweeney)

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How’d you like to be on the receiving end in this pitch meeting: It’s not quite sci-fi, not quite drama, not quite futuristic, but it all takes place inside a government-created computer game that people jump into and live (or die) within?

Try being the marketing exec whose job is to boil that down into a snappy billboard promo–even if it is created by X-Files helmer Chris Carter.

Based loosely on an obscure, early-’90s comic book, Realm starred Scott Bairstow (Party of Five) and D.B. Sweeney as two former military men sent inside the game to thwart the efforts of Omar Santiago (Terry O’Quinn), a soldier-turned-dictator who created his own antiestablishment establishment within the government-created game.

A bit convoluted, yes but an alternate world rife with possibilities for Carter’s trademark storytelling. It featured a rotating cast of characters and a buddy-cop relationship between Bairstow and Sweeney.

And it worked–dark, twisted, funny and thoroughly engrossing. Unfortunately, with a messy premise that demanded some concentration on the viewer’s part, a Friday-night time slot–a tough spot for any series that isn’t blatantly TGIF-ish–and a new Fox schedule that was largely a dud, it was yanked after three episodes.

In the end, what Carter predicted would be a ‘good, bumpy ride’ proved only half true. Cancelled in the US after only 3 of its 8 episodes.

production details
Canada – USA | Fox | 8×50 minutes | Broadcast 8 October – 22 October 1999

Creator and Executive Producer: Chris Carter
Source: James Hudnell, Andrew Paquette

cast
Scott Bairstow as Lt Thomas Hobbes
D. B. Sweeney as Mike Pinnochio
Terry O’Quinn as Omar Santiago
Rachel Hayward as Florence
Max Martini as Major Mel Waters
Samantha Mathis as Sophie
Sarah Jane Redmond as Inga Fossa

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