Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Emerald City
Season One


Starring: Adria Arjona, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Gerran Howell, Jordan Loughran, Joely Richardson and Vincent D'Onofrio
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 02 November 2020

The story is the make or break item of any film or series. It is founded on a dual query:  who do we care about and why do we want to see it? To take a popular classic film and retell it from behind the mirror of reflection and explore obliquely its intricacies from its source book, is a daunting task. How to modernize, contemporize for Gen Z and Gen Y audiences yet keep the classic hovering within. Super director Tarsem Singh (The Cell [2000], a riveting visual experience; and Mirror, Mirror [2012]) was, in his words, considerably “afraid” of working with a network (NBC) because of its behemoth control machinery and indeed, “creative differences” which did force a staff change in mid production. Until this project Singh was strictly a movie man.

The surrounding ensemble is rarely less than pitch perfect. When D’Onofrio heard Singh was aboard he immediately let it be known he wanted the role of Wizard, such was Singh’s reputation. This is the director who gave J-Lo the best platform of her career thus far.

Beyond that, we must have a Dorothy Gale we like, no matter what she’s doing, even if she’s doing nothing (which for an actor is “something” and what Hitchcock meant when he said he loved Cary Grant for being able to do “nothing” and do it so very well.) Adria Arjona is such an actor. We can only hope the single season still birth of EC does not make the behemoth machines forget her. I’d watch her anytime.

I also admire this creative collective for the choices of Oliver Jackson-Cohen as the (sort of) Strawman character, he too is imminently watchable. His passion is believable, his palette of emotion judiciously applied to the whole canvas with discreet choosing.

I also liked very much Gerran Howell as the Tinman persona and was told by a knowledgeable Gen Z’er he had a strong UK following for earlier work for the CBBC Young Dracula which ran for five seasons.

All these actors are talents to watch for and we must hope association with a failed series doesn’t eclipse their futures. What happened? Ten episodes were ordered and delivered and then... The subtlety of D’Onofrio’s quirky, passive Wizard made me think he was sleepwalking. Far from it. A little after the middle, we see his past life in Lucas, Kansas (yes, one of the many nods to this Oz and how it’s different) and his sickish introversion, a stifled romantic prankish desire to win admiration from a woman he worships from afar... in the local nuclear utility plant. Even now you’re getting a squirrelly view of how Dorothy gets vortexed into Oz and he becomes a dimensional doofus - so there we have it, Oz can be said to be the product of a male wallflower. After this, D’Onofrio’s retentiveness seems truly a clear and present danger.

The other worldly look of the Emerald City and its terrain come from the Barcelona Art Nouveau influence of Anatoni Gaudi (1852-1926), the Catalonian school and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The landscapes were in such rugged country, 4x drive vehicles were required. So that poppy leafed yellow brick road’s surreallity isn’t your imagining, it’s a trip worthy of Timothy Leary. A road sprinkled with opium dust.

Ten episodes exist. The conclusion is a fitful first season getting ready for a second.  Less than satisfying. Downright frustrating. Another problem is commercial break cuts. Necessary for a series. Not at all helpful for a fantasy epic. Sometimes, too many times, the cut is resumed in the midst of a high point, or maybe a mundane point, and the effect is deflating to say the least.

I could go on but it wouldn’t be fair to EC or you.  If you like to binge, this may be your cup of magical tea. There is an aura of sadness over it all and I don’t think that was intended. It’s what I call the leprosy of episodic television.  If it works, you get to keep your fingers on your remote.


John Huff

Buy this item online