Special Unit 2

3 out of 5

Created by: Evan Katz

This is 100,000% distraction TV.  This is either a subset of Buffy-type TV, or some kind of superclass that includes Dad-TV like NCIS – with which SU2 shares “tech expert” Pauley Perrette, who shows up in season 2 of SU as a, eh, “public relations expert” – but whatever way you want to group it, you’ll recognize the moves: the light thrills; the plug and play characters; the corny sense of humor; the roll-your-eyes douchey attempts at sex appeal; the faux-procedural structure…. Where SU2 manages to pull ahead, ever-so-slightly, is by applying the formula to an X-Files-y world – in which creatures of myth actually exist as “missing links” in our evolutionary history, now termed simply ‘links’ by the secret government organization that polices them (yes: that is Special Unit 2) – and then tossing any concept of theme or connecting storylines or character building aside in favor of breezy, one-and-done eps.

This is equally a criticism and boon: No, there is no hidden complexity, but yes, it’s sort of nice to watch something that’s so high concept applied to a lowest denominator, willfully avoiding any type of cliffhanger nonsense or forced hints at mysterious randomness that’s baked in to hook people for just one more week…. Essentially, you can watch one episode of Special Unit 2 – any episode – and pretty much immediately know if you’ll enjoy it.  That’s accessible disposability, folks, no “I’ll give it three weeks and see.”

The acting is all fine and good, since everyone just has to do their two-dimensional part – Michael Landes as the one-liner spouting, womanizing SU2 pro; Alexondra Lee as the skeptical cop-turned-SU recruit; Richad Gant as the cigar chomping boss; Danny Woodburn as the in-office the “link” informant – and either charmingly or annoyingly (again: You’ll know right away which term you’d use) there’s zero world-building regarding these creatures, and little sense as to how SU2 actually operates, or why Carl is their only go-to guy.  Also appreciated: each episode actually shows the bad guys in action, including ones that would’ve seemed logistically difficult – like Medusa – and besides some dated computer effects, the costume work is generally pretty creative and fun, reminding me, at times, of the better DIY Doctor Who creature designs from eras past.

But let’s not overstep: SU2 is a dumb, predictable show, and even if you’re down with its 90s rock music charm (ahem – the show was made in ’01 – ’02, bear in mind), there’s some shamefully dated humor (gay jokes, cross-dressing jokes, tons of ignorant sexism) that seems surprisingly shallow for the time in which it was made.  I cringed during those moments.  And whenever season 2’s tech guy Jonathan was on screen.

Fun fact: Mark Snow did the theme.  Toodles!