The fourth season may fall a little short of the three that preceded it, but The Dead Zone
remains one of the smartest, most intriguing series on television. As its adherents well know by now, the show, based on Stephen King's 1979 novel of the same name, was adapted for TV by Michael and Shawn Piller, with actor Anthony Michael Hall (who's also one of the producers) starring as Johnny Smith, who recovered from a horrific car accident and resulting six-year coma to find that his fiancee (Nicole deBoer) is now married to the town sheriff (Chris Bruno), who's helping raise her and Johnny's son. What's more, Johnny is now possessed of some remarkable and unsettling powers: simply by touching another person, or objects touched by others, Smith experiences visions that illuminate events that have happened, will happen, or are simultaneously taking place elsewhere. It must be handy to know which elevator button to push when you're looking for someone who's in trouble, or to realize that it's okay to jump off a hundred-foot bridge because you've seen yourself surviving the fall, but Smith's visions are rarely comforting and not always reliable, leading to moments of genuine suspense and intrigue.
With eleven episodes (plus a "bonus episode" from December, 2005) spread out over three discs, The Dead Zone is at its best when dealing with the series' one ongoing storyline: i.e., the machinations of Congressman Greg Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery), the dumb, arrogant puppet of sinister forces who aim to put him in the White House, where, by accident or design, he may preside over Armageddon, according to Smith's visions. Unfortunately, only three Season Four episodes address that story, and they fail to advance it much further; indeed, Episode 11, "Saved," serves mainly as a cliffhanger for subsequent seasons. The remaining stories, in which Johnny helps the cops pursue various psychopaths, perverts, missing persons (including a Lennon-esque rock star presumed dead many years before), and such, are good but considerably more pedestrian. Still, while other shows may have cooler special effects, more action, and larger doses of tension-relieving humor, The Dead Zone stands out for its overall smarts and classy production values. Bonus features include deleted scenes, audio commentary on a few episodes, and a featurette focusing on production design. --Sam Graham
Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole de Boer, David Ogden Stiers. The near-fatal car crash that put Johnny Smith in a six-year coma also gave him psychic powers when he awakened. This psychological thriller based on Stephen King's bestseller hit its fourth season in stride with all 12 episodes on 3 DVDs. 2005-06/color/6 hrs., 24 min/NR/widescreen.