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Six Ways to Sunday

Seven Days Beats Its Pulp Into a Brain

By emphasizing Parker's stress, Seven Days makes what he's going through oddly believable. At one level, the series is a workplace dystopia as bleak as La Femme Nikita; the hero loathes the way his job chews him up, keeps rebelling against its demands, and bitterly resents the bosses who treat him as simultaneously indispensable and expendable. At another, it's a parable of anxiety easily recognizable, for instance, by any parent who can't stop vividly conjuring up hypothetical catastrophes as soon as the kids are out the door. The tension in Parker's situation is that his head isn't only stuffed with bad dreams that he's actually experienced, but wistful might-have-beens he's lived through too. Crowe's best and most compassionate stroke is in appreciating that the character is estranged from those around him as a result, because he's had all sorts of encounters with them they don't know anything about; he's seen how vulnerable they are to randomness and caprice, and how different their relationships with him might be in altered circumstances. As a metaphor for the rifts between imagination and reality that so bedevil modern consciousness, the hero's isolation hits home. Yet the resonances and undercurrents aren't belabored. They're built right into the action, and if you want to call them existential or something fancy like that, that's up to you. But "neat" will do just fine.

LaPaglia's testy Parker is a genuinely unhappy, peevish action figure— GI Joe as the sad sack in a cosmic joke, and forlorn for all his derring-do. The rest of the cast— a surprisingly blue-chip bunch for a UPN sci-fi show, and good for them or their agents— is equally deft, with Lloyd bringing no less old-trouper conviction to his Yoda part than he did to the same role on St. Elsewhere and Nick Searcy adding a satiric note as the team's jingoistic security chief: "Crazy and lucky are what keeps this country one step ahead of the game," he blustered in one recent episode. The sexual tension between Parker and Vail's buttoned-down Olga puts real smoke into a lukewarm cliché— and the old will-they-or-won't-they question makes you appreciate the premise's ingenuity all over again, since in Parker's multitracked existence the answer could be that they will and they won't. As if the poor bastard isn't already miserable enough.

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