Sci Fis Invisible Man Nothing New

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It's not quite so bad that you wish it would disappear, but there are more than a few spots where viewers can see right through Invisible Man, the latest original series from Sci Fi Channel.

Don't let the title fool you: The series, conceived by Matt Greenberg (Halloween: H20), mirrors H.G. Wells' classic novel in title only. It actually has more in common with another project launched by USA Cable Networks chieftain Stephen Chao, the USA Network-turned-Sci Fi series Good vs. Evil (born GvsE). It has the same contrived offbeat sense of humor and Pulp Fiction-style editing.

It also has a similar fish-out-of water hero: small-time crook Darien Fawkes. As the pilot opens, we see Darien (Vincent Ventresca of short-lived NBC sitcom Boston Common) trying to rob a safe in an elderly man's home.

In an implausible turn of events, the old man comes out to confront Darien, only to suffer cardiac arrest at the sound of the thief's plastique bomb. Police mistake Darien's attempt at CPR for molestation, and he's sentenced to life in prison without parole.

His scientist brother, Kevin, then comes to visit him in the joint and makes him an offer he can't refuse: Take part in a government research project and you can go free.

Kevin and his team of scientists insert a "quicksilver gland" in Darien's head, which covers him with the substance, rendering him invisible. The idea is to use invisible federal agents to ward off future terrorist incidents and the like, Kevin explains.

The invisibility formula has some side effects, though. It's a narcotic, and it leads to bouts of madness, which, in Darien's case, includes a foray into the women's showers. It can only be counteracted by a methadonelike "counteragent," concocted by a Swiss researcher on Kevin's team.

The Swiss researcher turns out to be a terrorist intent on stealing the secret of the invisibility, and he leads a team of commandos to do so. They slaughter all of the other researchers, including Kevin, who dies in Darien's arms. He escapes, though, and the balance of the pilot focuses on his bid to avenge Kevin's death.

In that quest, he's recruited by a shadowy federal bureaucracy called "The Agency" (a division of the Department of Fish and Game, due to Defense Department cutbacks) and paired up with Hobbes (Paul Ben-Victor) a rumpled, bald and implausible superagent who's more interested in finding out the status of his raise than completing his mission-even though the life of Darien's doctor girlfriend, tracked down and held hostage by the Swiss, hangs in the balance.

Unsurprisingly, the G-man gig turns permanent at the end of the episode, with the promise of more adventures to follow. That's the problem with the whole premise: It's not that you can't see The Invisible Man. It's that you feel as if you've seen it all before.

The Invisible Man bowed Friday, June 9 at 8 p.m. on Sci Fi, and it will air Fridays at 8 p.m. through the summer.

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