Nowhere Man

by Alan Rapp on January 19, 2006

in Home Video

  • Title: Nowhere Man – The Complete Series
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“My name is Thomas Veil, or at least it was.  I’m a photographer, I had it all: a wife – Alyson, friends, a career.  And in one moment it was all taken away, all because of a single photograph.  I have it.  They want it.  And they will do anything to get the negative.  I’m keeping this diary as proof that these events are real.  I know they are… They have to be.”


In the fall of 1995 those words were first spoken as a legion of small but vocal supporters tuned into what was to be one of the best television shows ever made.  Nowhere Man follows photographer Thomas Veil who loses his entire life all in the blink of an eye for reasons he can’t even begin to understand.

In much the same way The Prisoner (check out that review here) dealt with the individual versus society Nowhere Man became a show about a man alone in the world unable to trust anyone or anything even perhaps his own sanity.  A man who clings to his identity and individuality, something that belongs to him and no one else, and refuses to give in and turn over the negatives losing that last true part of himself and admitting defeat to “them”.

And like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone Veil finds himself in a surreal world and existential journey where paranoia is his only friend.  The show also harkens back to the man on the run shows like The Fugitive as Veil hides from the vast conspiracy and tries to fight back and reclaim his life.  The show struck a chord with fans who finally after more than 10 years get to see their show on a handsome nine disc DVD collection recapping all 26 episodes of Thomas Veil’s amazing run.

Hidden Agenda

Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood) is a respected and renowned photo-journalist living one of the best days of his life with the successful opening of his gallery and the love of his wife Alyson.  Sadly things are about to change.  Veil gets up from the table at the couple’s favorite restaurant to have a smoke in the bathroom and when he gets back he finds his wife Alyson (Megan Gallagher) gone, another couple at the table, and the maitre de who doesn’t recognize him.

Veil travels home to find the locks changed, Alyson claiming she doesn’t know him, and a stranger who claims he is Alyson’s husband.  After attacking Alyson for answers in the parking lot Veil is arrested and committed to Calaway Psychiatric Hospital where he tries to convince the psychiatrist Dr. Bellamy (Michael Tucker) that he really is Thomas Veil and he is sane.  From talking with another patient (Ted Levine) and seeing Alyson talking with Bellamy Veil’s paranoia reaches new heights especially once he escapes and finds his best friend (Murray Rubenstein) dead, his mother the victim of a stroke and a single photograph missing from his gallery.

Veil and Dr. Bellamy

Confronting Bellamy he begins to understand all of this is tied to a single picture taken in the jungles of South America and the only proof of Veil’s existence or the existence of the photograph is the original negatives he had hidden safely away.  Veil leaves his life behind and begins to try to piece together what the photograph means and who “they” are.  His travels take him across the country on a paranoid journey where trusting another living soul could spell his end.

Throughout the twenty-six episode run Veil will find opportunities slip through his fingers and the truth always two steps out of reach.  In Turnabout Veil assumes the identity of Bellamy and is given the opportunity to see the Veil file if he helps break a young woman targeted for erasure.

Reality takes a right turn as Veil sees a pirate TV show about his own life being broadcasted including experiences just days or hours old and tracking down the man responsible for the show (Richard Kind) just leads further into The Spider Webb.

Veil uncovers the examples of the conspiracy’s brainwashing techniques in The Alpha Spike at a prep school and used to influence an entire town in Stay Tuned.  And episodes Heart of Darkness and Forever Jung glimpse at the military and medical resources of the organization.

Mr. & Mrs. Veil

Something About Her finds Veil captured and experimented on using drugs and virtual reality to attempt to make him give up the negatives for a woman (Carrie Anne Moss) they make him believe he loves.  In Through a Lens Darkly an agent of the organization makes Veil relive the tragic death of his childhood love in hopes of breaking him.  In The Enemy Within Tom is shot in a small town and nursed back to health by a farmer (Maria Bello) and begins to consider giving up the game.  And Alyson herself returns for It’s Not Such a Wonderful Life and Zero Minus Ten.

In a direct homage to The Prisoner Veil is taken in by a group of people who have all suffered similar fates and live together in their own village in Paradise on Your Doorstep.  And in You Really Got a Hold on Me Veil encounters another “disenfranchised” victim (Dean Stockwell) who tries to get Tom to give up his running and accept defeat.

Where are the negatives?

Later episodes involve Veil’s loose alliance with a traitor to the organization that leads to uncovering more truths about the organization.  In Contact Veil comes face to face with the man who ordered his erasure, and in Hidden Agenda the nature of the photograph and the events leading up to it are explored as Veil will learn a painful and surprising truth whose repercussions will resound throughout the final story arc of the season.

Whew!  And that’s only about half the episodes and I didn’t even mention the episode with the boy psychic, or the Thomas Veil double, or the reappearance of Veil’s father, or his return to Calaway, or his adventure in virtual reality or the results of his probing into the UFO sightings in New Mexico.

Much like The Prisoner, Nowhere Man is the story about forcing a man to his breaking point.  The information (why you resigned) or the physical object itself (the negatives) are really a MacGuffin.  What “they” are after is the surrender of the individual; the act of giving them what they want is far more important than what they are handing over.  As series creator Lawrence Hertzog explains “It’s a show about being stymied, played with, manipulated, and fucked over.”  It’s about not giving into the pressure no matter what it costs you in the end, even if in Thomas Veil’s case it costs him his entire world.  And in much the same way the hero is constantly played with and stymied and even his small successes get him nowhere closer to finding the truth.

Our Star

Let’s talk about Bruce Greenwood for a second; as the show’s only regular character the show relies on his performance and it’s outstanding.  Hertzog wanted a show like The Prisoner but one that reached audiences on both an emotional level and cerebral level.  Greenwood crafts a performance of a man going through all the emotions of losing his life and struggling to put it back together.  He is without a doubt the star of the show.

I also have to give huge props to Beth Hymson and Nannette Troutman who do an unbelievable job of casting the guest stars for each episode.

Woman of Dreams

The women of Nowhere Man are beautiful but in a more real rather than classical way: Megan Gallagher, Carrie-Anne Moss, Saxson Trainor, Donna Bullock, Melanie Smith, Mia Korf, Jamie Rose, Dorie Barton, Mimi Craven, Karen Witter, Sydney Walsh, Monica Creel, Juliet Tablak, Lesli Kay, Carol Huston, and Kayla Blake are each smart sexy and wonderful female actresses that add something to the show with their performances.  Hertzog and his team smartly stayed away from the sleeker model look the studio wanted to have in the show and cast wonderful actresses and women you could (and would really like) to meet at the corner store.  As for the male guests those too are excellently cast: Richard Kind, Michael Tucker, Sam Anderson, Raphael Sbarge, Cliff De Young, and James Tolkan as agents of the organization, Robin Sachs as the defector, Dean Jones as Veil’s long lost father, and Dwight Schultz, Dean Stockwell and Murray Rubinstein as Veil’s few and far between friends.  Terrific performances all.

The nine disc set was worth waiting ten years for with enough extras for even the most die hard fans of the show.  We get commentary tracks for an astounding eight episodes including the pilot from a host of those involved including Larry Hertzog, Bruce Greenwood, Megan Gallagher, Art Monterastelli, and Peter Dunne.  We also get video commentary for a few episodes seeing a condensed version of the commentary and the expressions and reactions from those present.  There is an interview included on each disc examining different aspects of the show with the creator, the star, the directors, the studio exec and more.  The interviews offer some insight to the difficulty and grind of the show on Greenwood who had very little information to base the character of Thomas Veil on and his struggles with the structure of the show.  Also included are the original series promos that ran on television for many of the episodes and some Bruce Greenwood outtakes.  The collection includes two featurettes one that examines the making of the show and the other examines the fiction and reality of Nowhere Man.  Great stuff here all in an awesomely packed box set; it’s a perfect showcase for the show.

Nowhere Man is television at its finest and the only true successor to Patrick McGoohan‘s masterpiece.  Lawrence Hertzog created the show with only two mission statements: 1. Make a Prisoner type show that focused on the emotional as well as the intellectual, and 2. Make something really, really cool.  He succeeded on both counts far beyond anyone’s expectations.  Nowhere Man is a mist of half-hidden truths and mysteries that every answer leads only to deeper and more puzzling questions.  It was the gem of UPN that tragically only lived for a short time, but you know what they say about candles that burn brightest.  I’ve been waiting ten years to sit back and watch the show from beginning to end and the experience was everything I remembered and hoped it would be again.  I can’t praise or recomend this show highly enough; Nowhere Man is the best of what television can offer and just maybe the coolest show in TV history.

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