Seven Days (“Pilot”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: October 7, 1998 (UPN)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.4/6 in Households, 2.0/5 with Adults 18-49

This show is part of my life’s history. It was the first show I was an actual fan of. It was the first show I watched a complete season of (as far as I was aware of at least), and it was the first show I rewatched on numerous occasions. It was the show I was madly in love with, and when the Internet was around, when this show aired on German TV for the first time in January 2000, I continued to gather information about it, to look at pictures, to see what the cast has done before and after, to stay on top of everything, even future episodes, to listen to what the cast sounded for real, since all I know was only the German dubbing. It was the first show I literally read spoilers of (as many as I could understand, since my English wasn’t that stellar back in the day), and it was the first show I cried about, when German channel ProSieben cancelled it halfway through the second season due to low ratings, just to bring it back a few months after, on a new day and new time. I haven’t watched this show in years, and I have started to forget things about it, especially since I was watching countless other shows after the show was cancelled for good after the third season, and I discovered the rest of television for myself. Now it’s time to hop the train again and go through three seasons of SEVEN DAYS, now that the show has been released on DVD, and see how ridiculous it might actually be in hindsight. And because I already know the answer, finding the ridiculous plot points will be a funny thing. Also, I believe it will be funny to count how often the main characters die throughout the show’s history, because I remember that some of the cast members of this show were killed off quite frequently.

Emotional trauma in America, not just because the government has been assassinated.

Well, it was the late 1990s, and there was a science-fiction action show about time travel — if that didn’t get the attention of the audience, then I don’t know what could have. I understand that SEVEN DAYS was a bit of a success for UPN in 1998, and after the first 90 minutes I can somewhat understand why: The show took itself seriously, when it came to the action and thrill and the original premise, while the writers made light fun of the rest of the episode. The characters are there to lighten up your mood, while the story is there to give you something to root for: ultimate and bad-ass heroes, evil villains, a character with a few funny lines here and there, a bit of flirting, and one or two emotional plot points to make the whole thing count at the end, and to not have the viewers forget why they should tune back to the show the following week for the next episode. For a UPN drama, the pilot is actually quite stellar, though it’s kind of unsuccessful when it comes to the test of time itself. It looks like a 90s TV production, the effects are quite cheap (especially the grenade explosion that knocked out Donovan) for today’s standards, and the show is definitely missing out on being more exciting after a remaster. Besides that, seven main characters, only one of them black, another one of them a woman. This is a show from white men, about white men, for white men. To think that it aired on UPN, whose task it was to keep all the black viewers at the channel with their black comedy programming makes it a bit of a wonder why the rest of the network’s programming was so generic in comparison.

For Parker, this is not a beauty salon, where he gets his underarm waxed.

Anyway, about the premise. First of all, the actual attack on the White House. I never figured out if Kretzneff was actually just killing the Russian President, or if he was really after the US President, or if the two in the same building was a deal he couldn’t resist. The separate assassination of the Speaker of the House seems to suggest Kretzneff was after the death of US leadership, although you could explain away that the assassination of the Speaker was just a way to conceal the fact that Kretzneff and his boys were after the Russian president. The perfect cover, while also celebrating the fact that you just killed the biggest and most important human on the planet, which should give you some terrorist points among the uber villains of the world. In the middle of the first hour, there was a scene where he toasted with his fellow terrorists, and the subtitle read “To a new president” — which could have only been said, if he was for a new Russian president, because why would he be cheering for a new American president, considering the fact that not the president was destroying his country, but American politics in general? This being a patriotic show though (the shot of the American flag atop the White House, while Parker was walking slowly towards Kretzneff in the van, made sure that everything about the story was supposed to be heroic and patriotic. Conservatives will love SEVEN DAYS), the Crowes didn’t need to explain what the terrorist attack really was about, and story-wise, it wasn’t important either. The president was dead, and all this show needed was that exact fact to get the backstep program going.

Second of all, the emotional level of the pilot, and how certain things affected the characters. In this case, showing how Parker got mad in his new room, because his son has died. Let’s not forget that there were two different scenes for that event. From Parker’s point of view, what he saw on television was a church memorial for the victims, his ex-wife and dead son never seen on the screen. When the same scene was shown on video for Donovan to look at, all Parker was seen doing was caress the TV screen, because his ex-wife and dead son were depicted. Hello, inconsistencies. The show isn’t even 60 minutes old and you already have given m something to bitch about. But the Crowes created a plot device to have Parker turn from a line dropper to an emotionally unstable human being, who decided to continue with this mission for the sake of his son. The mission became personal for him, and therefore the viewers had something to root for. It seems like one of those plots that was added after the Crowes handed the pilot script to various studios, because it’s what the network realized was necessary to bring depth into the episode. Was the inclusion of Patricia and Jimmy a network note?

Ramsey’s mission, should he choose to swallow it with a glass of water, is to get rid of Communists and crazies.

Third of all, the climax and PG-rated action set in Washington, D.C. Kretzneff throws a grenade at Donovan, and nothing happens to him, while he throws a grenade into a boat during the first hour, and everyone on it dies, or at least the shockwave is so huge and violent that they all fall off the boat. Also, Parker was quite able to do some serious combat with that bullet wound in his shoulder during the climax, let alone his decision to walk to the van to fight Kretzneff, instead of running, because… well, Kretzneff was activating the bomb. Parker should have lost some serious blood, but no, he could break Kretzneff’s neck and hug his son without any difficulties, and blood was not even oozing out of the wound and straight on Jimmy’s perfect little yellow shirt.

Number four would be the way Ramsey was written in this episode, and how curious I became about his political views, especially after Nick Searcy turned out to be a staunch Trump supporter. His character in this episode wasn’t one to remember, and after he became a pilled-out paranoid asshole ready to kill someone else, because of Ramsey’s opinions abut that person, all I could think of was how he was able to get hired for the project, since unstable characters like Ramsey should be fished out easier than people like Parker out of a mental institution. Besides that, I was curious why his colleagues were still listening to the guy, considering he looked like a drunk, talked like one, had dark eyes and his shirt was about to fall off of him. This is a highly classified base, security must be extra cautious and on high alert, but someone like Ramsey in his unstable ways gets to walk around like he owns the place. That Ramsey was even able to go up the stairs to the time capsule, and look at Parker through the window was kind of unbelievable. Security in this place is awful.

Captain America is about to save the day, and he can do it all without the help of a shield.

Those are kind of the major faults of the 90-minute pilot, making me wonder how the hell did I even come to love this show, when I was 13 years old. Okay, I just answered my own question. But was there actually something good and positive about this episode? Well, Jonathan LaPaglia was instantly able to pull off an intriguing action hero with a loose lip and a flirty charm. His mental state could be built into an ongoing arc, during which it’s never clear whether he is sane or actually crazy and risking his colleagues’ lives just for the shits and giggles, but his comedic timing and his physique make a good superhero out of him, and Parker was exactly that. With the storyline of Jimmy’s death, Parker even had some emotional depth in the second hour, giving him purpose that was absolutely necessary for the remainder of the pilot. Also, the “relationship” between him and Olga was interesting to follow, since it was the comic relief of the episode, fluffing up the story after it all began with the assassination of American government leadership.

Best part of the episode: No one knows who Scott Gilman is when it comes to television, but for some reason his score impressed me enough to have chased after the soundtrack CD when the episode aired. I even had to order it internationally, which means the soundtrack CD of this show was the first-ever thing I had to get imported. Anyway, the score to Parker marching towards the time capsule, and the workers and technicians cheering and applauding for the brave soul who is about to risk his life to save a few other lives, is the part of Gilman’s score I love the most. Which is why I was so disappointed that it didn’t find its way to the soundtrack CD.
Worst part of the episode: Everything involving Patricia. Damn, his woman just got out of a shooting, she feared for her son to be dead, but as soon as she sees Jimmy with Parker, all she can muster are the words “Damn you, Parker.” Not only do I find it weird that Parker’s ex-wife would call him by the name she probably had during their marriage, but she wasn’t happy that her son was still alive? She wasn’t happy that Parker was most likely in D.C. to save a bunch of lives?
Weirdest part of the episode: The episode never decided to explain the time travel mechanics after Parker successfully backstepped. What happens to his former self? Are there additional timelines and parallel universes now, since Parker left the preset to go to the past? Are there now two time capsules? Nobody over at UPN bothered to ask the Crowes questions about how they saw time travel, or was this show never supposed to be theoretical about time dilation?
Dead main character of the episode: Ramsey died before the backstep. He was crazed out on pills, completely paranoid, and shot by security services, so that the backstep can still happen. Ramsey leads the field with one death, everyone else has zero deaths so far.
Player of the episode: Yarborough, played by Aklam in this episode, during Parker’s very few minutes in the mental institution, had a tick every once in a while, making me believe that Yarborough really is crazy, compared to all the other nuts at the institution, who were easily crazy after just looking at them. The role is so small, but Aklam decided to bring his best anyway, and he succeeded, hence this award.

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