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By Natasha Brandstatter

Some of you may have heard of the recent "cult" sensation, La Femme Nikita, which airs on the USA Network and stars the peroxide-stickly figure of Peta Wilson in the title role of Nikita. Before I begin this deposition, let me say that I have watched this series with absolute dedication since the pilot episode, and will continue to do so. However, just because I am strangely addicted to the repressive lives of the main characters, it does not necessarily follow that I should consider the show to be high on that high-reaching (God knows) tower of television dramas.

For those who don't know, Nikita was a runaway living on the streets, smoking cigarettes, and wearing uncoordinated outfits until she stumbled upon a murder-in-progress. The killer shoved the knife in her hands and ran off. Then who should come along but some anonymous people in blue uniforms and before you know it, Nikita is being injected with a threatening liquid in a cold, dark room. This might be the end of Nikita's odyssey, if it weren't for . . .

Michael (Roy Dupuis). The sexy-but distant spyboy of Nikita's future affections, as we are to see as the show wears on. He (I imagine, in my own sappy, romantically-fogged brain) took one look at Nikita and decided to recruit her for Section One, also known as The Section, "the most covert anti-terrorist group on the planet. Their ends are just, but their means are ruthless. . ." etc., etc. To the outside world, Nikita is just a serial number on a plaque in the prison graveyard. To the thousands of terrorists and mischief-makers abroad, she is La Femme Nikita, ready to kick ass and defend her right to do so! At least as soon as she completes her two-year training stint to become an operative.

That is, if she completes it. Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer), Section's head honcho, has his doubts. Michael, however, placates him. Other relationships soon emerge. "Section is your family now," says Madeline (Alberta Watson), the psychotic overseer of tortures and other pleasantries. Playing the happy-go-lucky, too-much-LSD-in-the-sixties uncle is Walter (Don Franks), who also manages the weapons everyone plays with. Finally, there is Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson), cute computer genius, but unfortunately girls only distract him from his real love, which is breaking into security systems and so forth. At least, that's the case in the first few episodes (hint, hint.)

Nikita hates Section because she doesn't like to kill people. Also, she wants to have sex with Michael but he cruelly ignores her for several episodes, until he finally starts coming around, only to treat her coldly again by the end of the episode and start the process all over again. So far, the viewers have discovered that Michael really does love Nikita, but Operations wants him to stay far, far away from her. Nikita, of course, does not know this. She is kept in the dark most of the time and acts surprisingly naive when faced with the ruthless methods of The Section.

The show's production is quite interesting. Having been rescued from the slums of Fashion City, Nikita now wears only the most hip sportswear and sunglasses. Ditto for Michael, though his wardrobe usually consists of black or smoky-black suits. The most incongruous part of this fashion-plate cast is Nikita's hair. In one episode, after obviously having some trouble with her bangs, she wears them sprayed straight up from her forehead. In other episodes her hair is limp and scraggly.

Sets are often minimalistic and dark. Lately, in the second season, we have been seeing more interesting set designs. For instance, in one terrorist's liar, we see mysterious tanks stuffed with naked bald people. The reason for or meaning behind these tanks is apparently irrelevant or beyond the creative abilities of the writers, since they are never explained.

Speaking of the writing, I would have to say it is best to ignore it. The show often follows the Rodenberry Formula to Deal with Extras, which is to kill them. This is a predictable outcome for almost every new character that appears on LFN. Lately, the show's writers have been demonstrating to us, through their own blundering, when not to include a subplot. Michael's sentences tend to be very simple: two or three words at the most (he doesn't talk much.) And despite the fact that the show is named after her, Nikita often merely reacts to what is happening around her. The writers don't really use her or shape her character.

Ah, well. Despite all this, I still return to Nikitaland every Sunday night. Why, you might ask? Is it boredom? A sadistic love of bad television? A voyeristic craving for sex and violence? No, no, none of these apply. The reason I watch Nikita is simply that if I don't watch the show, I start to suffer La Femme Nikita withdrawls!

That's right; my name is Natasha and I am a LFN addict.

And I do not suffer alone. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people who go through the same thing I do every off-season. Analysis suggests that the USA Network has been possibly flashing subliminal messages during the show to boost ratings. If this is the case, I recommend that they continue to do so.

There is an emotional attachment that one appears to develop for the predicament of the characters over time. LFN is a guilty pleasure, in some ways, but it also has the power to occasionaly draw one into Nikita's exact situation. One forms an emotional attachment with the character, so that one day, while washing dishes or brushing one's teeth, one may catch oneself thinking, "Will Nikita and Michael ever get together?" Or, "That Madeline chick is so crazy." Then one might shake oneself and admonish, "Oh, stop; it's only a TV show." And it is only a TV show; but it's the most oddly addicting TV I've ever seen. Definitely not made for network television, or the general public, I predict that LFN will be the first cable series to join the ranks of the classic "cult" series, right in between The Twilight Zone and The Avengers.

Sex, violence, and beautiful people with deadly weapons . . . what more could one ask for?

La Links Nikita

Sounds of La Femme Nikita

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