La Femme Again
Porter Anderson, CNN.com (1 January 2001)
Careers that won't quit
The title role in "La Femme Nikita" seems to shadow Peta Wilson's career as her character might follow a terrorist. Even as she develops a pilot for NBC, Wilson returns to USA Network's air on Sunday night in new episodes of "Nikita."
(CNN) -- "I didn't think about it, I was pleased to be finished."
Peta Wilson thought she'd left the Toronto set of "La Femme Nikita" in May for the last time, closing a chapter in her career and going on to new projects.
"It was sort of mutual for all of us: Fine, great to be moving on to the next thing."
But weeks after the cast and production-crew members had dispersed, their phones started ringing. They were asked to negotiate deals for some new episodes -- their characters were to report back to Section One for another covert anti-terrorist mission.
Do you believe these new eight episodes are the last gasp for "La Femme Nikita?" Or do you think its cast members will end up making whole careers of return engagements
This is it. The end. Finito. Kaput. Au revoir. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Don't ask me. I thought the fourth-season end was it.
Where have you been? As long as there are bullet-proof vests, a Section agent down is a Section agent who might get up. Watch for episodes set in the Section One Nursing Home.
And on Sunday, a specially prepared coda to the "La Femme Nikita" series will begin airing on USA Network. Eight new episodes have been made with an eye to tying up loose ends in the long, moody run of this sexy thriller.
Wilson says the company had parted ways in May with no hard feelings and a good long run under their belts. "No drama -- 'That was great, nice run, that's it' -- that's how I felt about it."
Almost as stealthily as the show's black-clad Section One agents move in and out of terrorist cells, USA Network and Fireworks Entertainment Productions had infiltrated a dark corner of cult-hit consciousness. "La Femme Nikita," after four years, could hold its own for sheer mannerist distinction in television melodrama with Patrick McGoohan's 1967 phenomenon, "The Prisoner."
Producer-collaborators Joel Surnow, Jamie Lee Rock and their associates started with filmmaker Luc Besson's 1990 "Nikita" and created an unforgiving world of futurist espionage: The sexually toned power plays going on inside Section One have always been far more threatening than the explosive missions carried out against enemy operatives in the field.
Much as McGoohan came out of "The Prisoner" forever tied to its fanciful coastal setting, The Village, in Portmeirion, Wales, Wilson flew to Los Angeles last summer as an enduring icon of the chilly beauty of Section One. The ebullient, athletic Australian -- while aging from 26 to 30 -- had put herself onto the international map in this constantly shifting, soulful-operative role.
"Roy (DuPuis, who plays Michael) was a joy to work with as a director. It's good working with a director who's an actor."
ó Eugene Robert Glazer, "La Femme Nikita"
In earlier interviews, she has spoken of predictably torn feelings about "Nikita" -- a show that has both made her and typed her. "Creatively, television isn't the best medium for an actor," she'd told CNN.com at the end of the show's third season. "In TV, there are only so many squares for a circle to roll around in."
Nevertheless, Wilson's work so far is largely rolling around in those squares. In addition to playing a role in the four-hour "It's a Girl Thing," set to air on Showtime sometime in the coming months, "I'm developing a pilot now to shoot for NBC, shooting in March. By later in January it'll have a title. I'm taking the script home with me" to Australia "to read while I'm there.
And having often described a performance school she'd like to establish for "at-risk" youngsters, some of Wilson's goals aren't in acting at all. Psycht is a new line of watches that Wilson says she's introducing with Jasper Sceats, son of designer Jonathan Sceats. Wilson says she hopes the watches may be out later this month at Barneys and other retailers.
But as eager as Wilson is to get on with her career outside "Section," as its characters and fans call it, these past months of taping may have seemed to mimic the show's many scripted comments over the years about how operatives have no life outside Section.
"I was definitely surprised. I think it was about six weeks, seven weeks after we'd wrapped the last season before they told me" that, in reality, "La Femme Nikita" wasn't over after all.
The rest of her career would go back onto hold. Her new assignment: "Basically answering all the questions of the fans."
"Nikita -- you've seen her evolution over four years -- she's like a phoenix, she's come into a phoenix status. I think it's a natural progression. She's become 'what it is' -- you don't kill that many people and not become a little hardened. She evolved into something else."
óPeta Wilson, "La Femme Nikita"
Wilson is moving pots and pans around her kitchen as she packs up for a trip home to Sydney, to her seaside family and life there. Boyfriend and filmmaker Damian Harris is off to his own family for a bit in England. (The film they made together with Ellen Barkin and Julian Sands, "Mercy," was released last winter but found little traction outside the video-rental stores.)
A certain finality is ringing in every slam-down and placement of a utensil with which she punctuates her conversation. "I mean, that's what it was. The characters are the same. Nikita -- you've seen her evolution over four years -- she's like a phoenix, she's come into a phoenix status," rising from the victimization of the role's inception to, at the end of the fourth season, an unexpected operative, herself, of the over-agency: Center.
"I think it's a natural progression. She's become 'what it is' -- you don't kill that many people and not become a little hardened. She evolved into something else."
Wilson agrees, in fact, that this parallels the character created by Anne Parillaud in Besson's 1990 film, too. By the movie's end, Parillaud's Nikita shows little of the naïveté she had at the outset. Wilson says she felt, however, that the progression was complete for her own television Nikita last summer.
"I liked the way it ended, personally, but the fans" -- a pot clangs down -- "the fans objected. They didn't like that I didn't look back at Michael," Nikita's love interest played with show-styling impact by Quebecois actor Roy DuPuis.
The fans are restless
"Back by popular demand" is a phrase you've heard before. It's nothing new. There may have been no fonder advertising poster slogan in vaudeville days as hopeful hacks rolled back into towns they'd played too many times before. The marketing instinct being what it is, there may well have been revivals of Aristophanes' plays in ancient Greece announced as "back by popular demand."
And USA Network -- which gets credit for taking a gamble on "La Femme Nikita" and sticking with its edgy grace for four years -- is sparing no effort in beating the "back by popular demand" drum.
It's no Section secret that there's a tremendous fan base out there for the show. Producer Rock has talked about monitoring the many "Nikita" sites' chat rooms and message boards to see how parts of various episodes were playing in Poughkeepsie and all points cyber.
USA Network reports that 24 percent of "La Femme Nikita"-watchers live in households that make more than $75,000 annually. That places the "Nikita"-rati on a par with the relatively upscale audiences traditionally drawn to the Arts&Entertainment network and Discovery. Some 60 percent of the "La Femme Nikita" faithful, the company says, falls in the 18- to 49-year age bracket, beloved of advertisers. And 27 percent of "Nikita" households are led by college graduates, considered another big plus on Madison Avenue.
According to the network, more than 25,000 letters and e-mail messages from some 40 countries descended on USA Network's offices after the fourth season of "La Femme Nikita" concluded. The effort was led by a fan cell that called itself First Team.
First Team and cohorts had watched Section One's ace mission strategist Madeline (Alberta Watson) commit suicide. Communications master Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson) had done the same, but had been replaced by his twin brother Jason. Section One chief Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) was assigned to a biblical seven more years' labor in Section One. Munitions expert Walter (Don Francks) was dispatched to teach at "the Farm." And arch-operative Michael (Roy DuPuis) had been rescued from a suicide mission but then left to his own devices by a newly glowering Nikita -- who'd turned out to be the right-hand woman of the triumphant Mr. Jones (Carlo Rota).
Not good enough, USA Network says, for the fans.
At one point in November, network officials say, the company's viewer e-mail address was temporarily shut down by the overload.
Some fans bought a full-page ad in the Hollywood Reporter, campaigning for more "Nikita" episodes to tie up ends they thought were unacceptably loose when the fourth season ended. One fan sent the network a television. Four VCRs arrived. More than 100 pairs of sunglasses were shipped to USA Network. Sunglasses have held a chic spot in the show's urbane imagery and communications tech -- and they were a decor motif on Wilson's early apartment-interior sets.
Money was flung at the company -- USA Network reports getting some $3,000 from fans and handing it over to charities. Someone sent in cookies baked with actor DuPuis' picture on them. Someone else printed about $100 of fake dollar bills picturing him.
Maybe more tellingly, the network says 24 percent of "La Femme Nikita"-watchers live in households that make more than $75,000 annually. That places the "Nikita"-rati on a par with the relatively upscale audiences traditionally drawn to the Arts&Entertainment network and Discovery. And ratings for the show when it ended were going the right way: They were 61 percent higher at the end of last summer than at the beginning.
Some 60 percent of the "La Femme Nikita" faithful, the company says, falls in the 18- to 49-year age bracket, beloved of advertisers. And 27 percent of "Nikita" households are led by college graduates, considered another big plus on Madison Avenue.
In other words, USA Network felt there was easily enough meaningful audience to support some question-answering additional episodes of the show.
"The fans wanted to know," says Wilson, "how I was going to take care of Michael" after Nikita had saved him in the fourth-season finale. Presumed dead by both Section and Center, Michael indeed finished up in a bind as Nikita stalked off through a yellow-luminous glade.
"I'd always loved him," Wilson says. "But I had to walk off from him like that -- one of us had to sacrifice."
Not good enough, USA Network says, for the fans.
"So the new episodes just answer a lot of questions."
"I had a suspicion," Eugene Glazer kicks into the "a funny thing happened on the way to Section this morning" voice that the show's fans know as that of Operations in a light-hearted mood.
"It felt weird," when the show was wrapping late last spring, he says. "We were told there might be a couple of movies-of-the-week from the show. That's why, we were told, the sets weren't torn down.
A few glimpses of how things look in the eight weeks to come? We've got them right here for you, no special clearance required. Click here and get your weapons back to Walter before the next absolute, never-again, final, we-really-mean-it-this-time, farewell episode.
"The studios" in an industrial park outside Toronto "were just locked and closed. They wouldn't let me buy any of my clothes" he'd worn on the show as the Armani-horse Operations, controller of Section One and the fates of many of its agents. "We dress very well in Section," he'd once quipped to a reporter on the set with him during a shoot.
"But I couldn't even leave with a tie," in May, he says. "There was one suit I wanted, a couple of ties and a shirt. They said, 'OK, it'll cost 740 bucks.'" This was a clue to Glazer that something was afoot. Used costume pieces shouldn't have cost so much. The company was making it hard to pull apart any aspect of the show.
"They did give me a Rolex-look-alike rip-off and a pair of reading glasses."
An option on most of the cast members' contracts, Glazer says, wasn't picked up on August 15. Glazer and his actor-wife, Briani, were in the process of renovating and moving into a new house in Los Angeles. "The building department lost all the plans" just to add to the festivities of the summer.
And Glazer also points out that when a show is made in Canada -- and its people paid in Canadian dollars -- the money is no windfall. The "loony," as the Canadian dollar sometimes is called, is worth about 67 U.S. cents right now. Add to that the agents' commissions that are deducted from actors' pay. Then pay taxes.
"What it means is that I've told my Canadian agent," says Glazer, a New York native, "that if I ever work in Canada again, I have to be paid in American dollars."
Much of the banter you get today with Glazer -- as witty a conversationalist as you may meet anywhere in Hollywood -- is about various scenarios that could be rigged up to generate even more "Nikita." This, for him and probably for most of the cast, is a kind of career gallows humor.
But laugh as he may, an unexpected extension like the new eight-episode season of the show is hard on an actor's career. Suddenly, you can't go out on audition calls for new roles. Suddenly, the role you'd consigned to your resumé as a done deal ... isn't.
His agent at LA's House of Representatives, he says, "told me, 'Well I've never had an actor say, "Don't send me out for anything."'" But that's just what Glazer ended up saying for a few months this fall as the new addendum season was being shot in Toronto. "It's been absolutely crazy."
One good thing to come out of this return engagement, however, Glazer says, was the chance to work with cast-mate DuPuis as a director. In the first four years, DuPuis, Glazer says, hadn't really felt ready to direct but was interested in trying it. This time he took on an episode.
"Roy was a joy to work with as a director," Glazer says. "A little behind schedule doing some artsy stuff" -- that Operations mischief is never far from Glazer's chat. "But I hope they keep a lot of what he did" when the show is edited. "Everybody was behind him 100 percent. It's good working with a director who's an actor."
Their ends are just
So many things can't be told here. The show has thrived on surprises. A character thought dead in one episode returns in another. An entire base of operations is destroyed and immediately replaced with another.
We will tell you that there are some scissors and blond hair brought together very early on in the first of the new eight episodes. "Another episode, another hairstyle" might be a subtitle to the series -- many fans can tell you which year a rerun is from simply by glancing at the hairstyles on the actors.
"My agent asked me about going out for some work in Germany. I said nein. If I go off to Germany for a job, my wife is going to say, 'Get yourself another fräulein.'"
ó Eugene Robert Glazer, "La Femme Nikita"
Many will be glued to their Sunday night televisions, as that bell-like show-opening music signals that "La Femme Nikita" is once again on the prowl, anxiety-ridden pauses and ruthless self interests all wrapped up in torso-hugging black operative-wear.
But the really cool stories to come are about these actors. And where their careers take them in that elusive "life outside Section."
Eugene Glazer says he has no major projects lined up yet, beyond getting that new house in LA under control and staying put for a while. "My agent asked me about going out for some work in Germany," he says. "I said nein. If I go off to Germany for a job , my wife is going to say, 'Get yourself another fräulein.'"
And maybe after this surprise recall, Peta Wilson is less willing to say "never." She sounds as if she's talking both herself and her fans into believing that the airlocks of Section One have been sealed for good.
"The new episodes totally do their job. I wouldn't know what else to do. The way it ends," she says, "there's a lot resolved. Everything she's been asking for years is answered -- why? how come? when? what was that? That's all there."
"Nothing is left up in the air at the end."
There's another pause.
"But, I mean, there's always a question."
And the career lives of these actors now have come rather curiously to imitate those of their characters who live on such a short leash and listen for the digital to ring. Nikita answers. Section One is calling. That French-Canadian accent, unmistakably Roy DuPuis' baritone, is on the line:
La Femme Nikita Back in Action
Vanessa Sibbald, Zap2It.com TV News (3 January 2001)
When fans of USA Network's "La Femme Nikita" were told last May that the season finale of the program would be the series' last, they decided they would have the final word. Online fans organized a group known as "First Team" with the express purpose of saving the show, sending over 25,000 e-mails and letters to the net.
Rob Sorcher, USA Network's general manager, said in a statement that it was because of the fans that the show is returning to the net.
"We can thank the 'La Femme Nikita' fans for these final eight episodes of basic cable's longest running original series."
The Story So Far:
Although the series was initially conceived as a TV version of the 1990 French film of the same name directed by Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element" ), starring Anne Parillaud, Tchéky Karyo and Jean Reno. The basic concept follows a highly secret government agency that recruits agents from death row to follow out life-threatening missions to save the world from terrorist threats. After four years -- and more plot twists than a winding river -- the series has taken on a life of its own. Fronted by stars Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis, the show's action premise masks a heart-breaking romance, albeit a mostly platonic one, about two people in love who can't express it because of factors outside of their control.
After three years of waiting, Section One agents Nikita (Wilson) and Michael (Dupuis) finally hooked up during the fourth year of the show, allowing fans to sigh a collective breath of relief. At the end of last year, the couple's future looked promising as they escaped Section together, bringing a neat end to the show. The series' ending, however, was not to be as tidy.
The season finale took everything built up in the last four years and turned it topsy-turvy. Center, the agency that oversees Section One, revealed that Nikita was in fact a double agent working for them against Section. By the episode's end, Nikita had cancelled Michael, retired Walter (Don Francks), cancelled second-in-command Madeline (Alberta Watson), who committed suicide in an act of resistance, and left Section's boss Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) in charge for another seven years, thereby denying a promised promotion. Nikita, of course, helped Michael to escape, telling him that she never loved him before faking his death and moving on to Center.
Still to Come:
That brings us to the current episode, the first of the fifth season. The return of Nikita, sporting a new shorter haircut (in opposition to Michael's out-dated mullet), finds the double agent back where she started -- still at Section, still not knowing why she was recruited as an agent and without Michael. Although she thought she was moving up to Center, Nikita finds herself sent back to Section for one last mission. Making matters worse, Mr. Jones, the leader of Center, is stalling on giving her the reason why she was framed and made an agent. The good news is -- and I hope this doesn't spoil it for anyone -- Michael is coming back, just not yet. A spokeswoman from Warner Bros. Television, the studio that produces the series, told Zap2it.com that Dupuis is definitely returning for about half of the final eight episodes. Dupuis has also directed an episode that he does not appear in.
Despite the return of agents Quinn (Cindy Dolenc), now a regular, and Marco O'Brien (Stephen Shellen), the absence of Dupuis is sorely missed, especially without familiar cast members Francks and Watson. Shellen, playing an agent installed in Section to replace Michael, pouts and looks confused half the time, while Dolenc, Operations' new girl Friday, has all the cunning of Madeline but hardly any of the nerve or mystery that made Madeline so interesting. The plot, which involves the terrorist group Red Cell, has enough references to past episodes to keep fans intrigued. Although Section is missing many of its favorite characters, the tension between Operations and Nikita is so thick you could slice it, especially during a wonderful scene where Operations warns Nikita about Center.
"Truth is, you were sheltered here," he tells her. "The dangers of Center are far worse because they're far more subtle."
With the return of "Nikita," fans are getting exactly what they wanted, more episodes of the show and hopefully an ending that answers some of the questions behind Nikita's past -- and the return of some familiar faces, including a few surprises. The series has returned without missing a beat, or giving the impression that it had ever been gone for good. The real test will be to see if, after the eight episodes air, the fans still want more.
Grass Roots Campaign Can Save TV Shows
Ricardo Baca, Corpus Christi Caller-Times (5 January 2001)
Extended Life of "La Femme Nikita" Shows Fan Support Changes TV Execs' Minds
If you think your opinion doesn't matter, think again.
Every Sunday, many of you read in the Caller-Times TV Channels' Sound Off about viewers who miss their favorite TV programs that have undergone the ax; shows such as "Sports Night" and "Freaks and Geeks" were cancelled recently to the disappointment of many. I'm sure some of you even miss such notorious bombs as "Tucker" and the "Mike O'Malley Show."
But most of us, when hearing that a favorite show has been cancelled, just sigh helplessly and complain to friends and family. Whenever anyone calls me in search of an extinct program, I sympathize and tell them they should write to the network and the production company. Make your voice heard, I tell them, because sometimes that can make a difference.
USA Network's "La Femme Nikita" was scheduled to end its four-year run in May of 2000, but that decision didn't work with the show's gargantuan fan base. The fans, who have centralized on numerous Web sites, spoke up, and the result is eight more hour-long episodes of the drama starring sleek Australian actress Peta Wilson starting at 9 p.m. Sunday on USA.
"We can thank the 'La Femme Nikita' fans for these final eight episodes of basic cable's longest running original series," said Rob Sorcher, USA Network's general manager. "Their vocal enthusiasm and amazingly organized efforts are clearly a response to the quality of the show and speak to the potential of original series on USA Network."
Wilson deflected all questions pertaining to "Nikita" when she was promoting her role in a new Showtime film last July in Los Angeles; surely negotiations were underway to get her back in the stylistically black wardrobe that symbolizes Nikita.
According to USA, "Nikita" fans plead with the network through every available avenue.
Fans in 40 countries formed an online conglomerate known as "First Team" in an effort to flood USA with requests for more "Nikita." The fans also took out a full-page ad in the industry rag Hollywood Reporter to raise awareness about their campaign.
USA received more than 25,000 letters and e-mails about "Nikita;" the voracious e-mail campaign temporarily shut down USA's viewer feedback service in November.
Gifts from fans to network executives included $3,000 in cash, a TV, four VCRs, and more than 100 pairs of sunglasses (which are iconic of Nikita and her cohorts). Other gifts were cookies and fake $1 bills decorated with a picture of Roy Dupuis (the actor who plays Michael, Nikita's love interest).
The right to write
Now I'm not saying that you should bake a cake emblazoned with Michael Richards' face and mail it off to NBC to save the already cancelled "Michael Richards Show" - some things aren't salvageable. But if you do miss Richards or if you were one of the few who found pleasure in Yasmine Bleeth and Casper Van Dien in "Titans," write NBC and tell them.
Feedback from fans makes a difference, because there's no way each network can know how the entire country is responding to its show. The nets have accurate Nielsen ratings information in the heavily populated markets, but perhaps one show skews particularly well to small towns - most of which have few and less-accurate ratings periods - so the direct response from viewers is valuable to any network.
USA knew that hundreds of thousands of fans were lurking in dimly lit rooms across the country each Sunday night dreaming of a world where Michael and Nikita could be free together. But the network underestimated the show's worth when the writers sold Nikita out in what was supposed to be the last show.
The show (which was adapted from French director Luc Besson's 1991 feature film "La Femme Nikita") started with Nikita being wrongly accused for killing a cop and headed for a death sentence; she avoids the unjust fate only to be forced into a new life as a top-secret agent for an unknown government agency called Section One.
The previous four seasons had built Nikita up to be a reputable agent who broke the rules only when necessary and in circumstances of love (she had an ongoing affair with fellow agent Michael that ranks among the steamiest of daytime soap romances). The show that was supposed to be the series finale revealed that Nikita had always been a spy for Center, the supreme organization in control of Section One.
This did not come as good news to fans of the show; rather it seemed like an easy way out. Fans had emotional investment in this show and its characters, and they weren't about to let pithy legalities get in the way of putting a proper and well-timed ending on "Nikita."
Season five begins on a very different direction with Nikita exposed and wanting out of the organization. In the season premiere, the head of Center brings Nikita back for one last mission, and she agrees only because she wants to find out why she was brought into Section One in the first place. But because everyone within her group now knows Nikita as a mole, multiple people want her dead.
Sure, the jargon in "La Femme Nikita" is wannabe-technical, the sets are cheap and the acting/writing is generally sophomoric, but "Nikita" is an example of the viewers' voices being heard, and aside from unpersonal Nielsen numbers, that's difficult to see in a medium that doesn't rely on audience participation.
Surprising Femme Is Not Fatale
David Bianculli, New York Daily News (5 January 2001)
USA's hot spy series cheats death
To ring in the New Year, USA Network ran a "La Femme Nikita"-thon, featuring the opening and closing episodes of every one of the stylish spy series' four seasons.
This Sunday night at 10, USA presents another season opener, the first of what are being called the show's final eight episodes.
Of course, "La Femme Nikita," like its heroine, has almost gotten used to the threat of finality. It was pulled from production last year ó without ceremony or justification ó then given a new order months after those on the show thought it was finished.
USA is promoting the return as a victory for the fans who have clamored for a return. More realistically, it's a defeat for "The War Next Door" and "Manhattan, AZ," the two now-canceled comedies that were called upon to replace "Nikita" last July.
When those comedies tanked badly in the ratings, and when USA lost its franchise wrestling show to a competing network, USA executives realized "La Femme Nikita" was one of their few successful series. Only then did they listen to the fans, recount the hanging chads, and bring back "Nikita."
So what have they brought back?
Hard to tell. To wrap up the series last year, the producers engaged in a defiant act of revisionist history. Nikita (Peta Wilson), instead of being a victim, revealed herself to have been a longtime double agent. Among other things, this meant her final-season brainwashing was a sham, about as erasable a story line as that infamous season of "Dallas" before Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower.
Sunday's episode finds a way to restore part of the status quo while giving Wilson even more striking fashions to wear.
The character known as Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) is back in charge. Quinn (Cindy Dolenc), whose identity Nikita assumed briefly last season, has resumed her spy duties. And Walter (Don Francks) is wooed to return to his old post by Nikita, who's now a powerful sort of spy deputy to Operations.
Future episodes, we're told, will find a way to include one of the Birkoff twins (Matthew Ferguson), and even the spirit of the dead Madeline (Alberta Watson).
And though Roy DuPuis, as Michael, is nowhere to be seen, that doesn't mean anything. Not on this show, especially after all the rules have been broken.
Yet the return episode, at least, feels like everyone is just going through the motions and making it up as they go along.
Fans Keep Nikita Running
Larry Bonko, The Virginian Pilot (5 January 2001)
The babe in black is back.
And you, dear reader, are responsible for rescuing La Femme Nikita from cancellation.
USA planned last May to shut down La Femme Nikita, four years after the launching the series about elite operatives in a hush-hush government agency called Section One.
Its ratings were slipping while the cost of producing the high-gloss series in Toronto was rising. It takes a lot of black leather to keep La Femme Nikita going.
As cast members including series star Peta Wilson were working on their resumes and wondering where they would work next, fans of the show in 40 countries inundated USA with more than 25,000 letters and e-mailings to USANetwork.com. Some fans bought full-page ads in the Hollywood trades urging USA to keep the series going.
USA last August responded to such devotion by negotiating with the show's producer, Fireworks Entertainment, for eight more episodes of La Femme Nikita starting Sunday night at 10.
Come Sunday night...Wilson returns as Nikita -- a Nikita with a much shorter 'do, a Nikita suddenly despised by her comrades for spying on them for Center, the overlord of all Sections.
"Going behind our backs, Nikita reported every word and deed while passing judgment on people who thought of her as a friend and colleague," says Section One Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) in Sunday's episode.
Thanks to the suddenly corporate-cold Nikita, good ol' reliable Walter, the weapons expert who wears bandanas, was packed off to semi-retirement as a teacher at The Farm.
Nikita's hated. But needed.
Just when she thought she had earned a promotion, and was through with the climbing-over-walls, crashing-through-windows, high-kicking-terrorists-into-submission stuff, the Center orders yet another risky mission for Nikita.
"Your days in the field are supposed to be over, but..."
The head of Center, played by Carlo Rota, has learned of a group called The Collective that's about to heap "a reign of terror on the West."
Your mission, Nikita: Facilitate and then destroy The Collective.
Even with the help [of] a missile-firing submarine, she doesn't get it done in Sunday's eiposde. That means we'll be seeing more of Wilson in the field, climbing, clashing and confronting arms dealers and money launderers in the next two months.
"You can thanks the fans' vocal enthusiasm and their amazingly well-organized efforts for these final eight episodes," said USA's general manager, Rob Sorcher.
As La Femme Nikita heads into its last eight episodes, it's a better show than it has been of late. The cast is smaller (Section One strategist Madeline has committed suicide, and super-operative Michael was sent off on a mission), the scripts less cluttered and the focus sharper.
No more Nikita-Michael nuzzling. La Femme Nikita concentrates on ridding the world of those who would terrrorize one nation after another for fun and/or profit. To help do away with these international scumbags in this last run for La Femme Nikita comes Edward Woodward of The Equalizer.
Is he the real power behind the Center? Is he the man who intruded in Nikita's life three years ago, forcing her to become a top-secret agent?
Nikita's pledge: "I'm going to find out about this one way or another." But first, The Collective must be dismantled.
Back in Black
David Tagnani, publication unknown (7 January 2001)
The fans knew exactly what they wanted -- and how to get it. With the Internet available to help organize their efforts, La Femme Nikita's dedicated following had the means to all but bully the USA Network into giving the show one last hurrah before pulling the plug. Hence tonight's return of the sci-fi-tinged action series based on the 1990 French film of the same name.
Nikita fans banded together in a massive campaign organized around several Web sites that were set up specifically to convince USA to bring the show back. The campaign reached such a fever pitch that the network's viewer e-mail address temporarily shut down in November due to the volume. The fans also bought a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter to raise awareness and support for their cause. Eventually, USA relented and negotiated for Nikita's return.
The show's star, Peta Wilson, had a somewhat mixed reaction to this unusual turn of events. "I was happy to get on with my life and do something new -- the fans were insisting we come back," she says. "The fans were so insistent upon it, I just felt like, 'Okay, I'm gonna do it for them.'" While she may appear less than elated about reprising her role as the anti-terrorist agent Nikita, Wilson is appreciative of the viewers. "I've been so spoiled by the fans. I'm incrediblyt grateful for their support."
USA will air eight new episodes of the series starting tonight. We find that Mr. Jones (Carlo Rota) reassigns Nikita to Section One, even though he promised her that her days as a field agent were over. A unique terrorist threat has come up where Nikita's past experience is absolutely invaluable.
So she's thrown back into the ring after betraying the confidence of nearly everyone in Section One as an internal investigator for Center. Needless to say, Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer) does not give her a warm welcome back. But Nikita goes about her business in her usual cool and efficient manner, at the same time retaining the sense of humanity that makes her the sympathetic character that has captivated audiences for four seasons.
So what's in store for Nikita in these final eight episodes? Wilson thought a big reason for the fans' campaign was that they wanted more of a sense of closure. Do they get it? "She reaches a new level of understanding," she says of Nikita. "Why she was brought in (to Section One), why she was framed for a crime she didn't commit, and who did it. That's all there."
But, true to the show's nature, not all of Nikita's questions are answered in the end. "Nikita kind of gets what she wants ... kind of." With the likelihood of yet more unresolved issues when the series comes to a close once again, perhaps fans may try their luck at lobbying for Nikita's return one more time. But it may not matter. "I think we're done now. I think that's it," says Wilson. "I've said my goodbyes to (Nikita)."
It appears fans should be prepared to do the same.
Peta Wilson Prefers Raw Acting
Luane Lee, Winston-Salem Journal (11 January 2001)
Actress Peta Wilson comes bounding into the quiet hotel room and plops on the green couch. Her blonde hair waves in the breeze she has created and she leans forward, her dark glasses obscuring her eyes.
The Australian star of La Femme Nikita and the coming Showtime miniseries A Girl Thing jumps up, tucks her feet under her and announces that the trick of her trade is finding a balance.
`What happens is actors get off balance because theyíre playing characters all the time. Then, who are they? Iím an actress, Iím not a method actress, Iíll do it in the moment. Iíll get angry about something ó but Iím like cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers ó like when you were a kid.... Which is a much healthier way to go. Basically youíre the painter, youíre the paint and youíre the canvas.í
She and her family ó her father was with the military ó lived in New Guinea until she was 8, an upbringing that still shows in her broad, expressive hands and restless movements.
`We had a wonderful life, lived in native communities. And my brother and I were the only white children and so loved because of our differences. It was great. No TV. We had radio and eight-tracks and we used to sing. Iíd do impersonations of I Dream of Jeannie,íĎ she said, giggling.
`When Iíd go to Australia to see my grandparents Iíd watch TV. We had a very good country life. We were wild, fresh, obedient children. Our mother and father were good parents. Young. At school I was very athletic and very studious. If I liked the teacher, I wanted to learn what they had to teach me.í
Wilson is still learning. Sheís still not sure what she wants to do with her life, except have a '`beautiful husband and beautiful children. That should be enough, thatís kind of why weíre here,íĎ she said.
`But at 20 youíre young. (At 20) I said, ĎThatís what I want but Iím from a different generation and thatís not how people think anymore.í I wasnít sure what to do, so I went to study at drama school. I did it in America because nobody knew me. But I felt that acting was so narcissistic. Itís fine to take my family and make a fool of myself in front of (them) and my friends but actually doing it as a living,íĎ she said, wagging her head.
`Some of the actors Iíve met were kind of strange and didnít really see outside themselves, how beautiful the day was and what someone else (thought).
When she arrived in Hollywood she drove a í58 Thunderbird (she likes to work on old cars) and had packed all her clothes in the back. She had saved up $12,000 from earlier modeling jobs and investments in houses with her brother.
`So if it didnít happen, I could just open a fish and chip shop,íĎ she said, laughing. '`I didnít expect that I would still be in America. That was 10 years ago and Iím still here. I went on walk-about and havenít gone back. I mean, I go home, but Iím still on walkabout.
Wilson, 40, [note: their mistake not mine] took to America immediately.
`It was very interesting and I fell in love with this beautiful English-Irishman named Damian Harris. Heís a writer-director. Heís Richard Harrisí son, and I fell madly in love with him. We moved in together. We lived together and he totally inspired me.... I was in love in Los Angeles and created my own school. I went to school every day, studied with teachers, used my savings, did little modeling jobs ó the May Company or pregnancy jobs, it didnít matter ó to get myself through drama school. And he took me out to nice dinners, and we would go to the movies and had a nice life.í
USAís La Femme Nikita, which is back this winter with eight new episodes, came along and altered that '`nice life.íĎ
`That show took 16 or 17 hours of my day,íĎ she said. '`And he stayed and he stayed and he stayed, but itís exhausting. When I came home I was exhausted, we would go out to dinner and people would recognize me everywhere, he didnít really get that personal time with me.
`And I had no choice because I was in a contract and thatís what I had to do, and there was 180 people relying on me, and they all had wives and families and he loved me very much. It was one of those unfortunate stories, and who knows whatís going to happen. We broke apart a few months ago. Iím now taking some time to think about that because I loved him very much....í
Don't Cry for Nikita, She's Back With A Bang
Jeff Simon, Buffalo News (14 January 2001)
When last we left "La Femme Nikita," she was wearing a hat so ridiculously oversized that it looked like something you'd see in the stands at an Oakland Raiders game. Penance, no doubt.
She was, at the time, on the way to a decidedly unsentimental farewell to Section One, the murderous spy nest where she'd risen, against her will, to the status of oldie-but-goodie. The USA Network had canceled her sleek, bassoon-voiced, altogether wonderful self and they needed to go out with a bang.
So they did.
It turned out that for the whole run of the show, Nikita, everyone's favorite TV Amazon, had secretly been working for a creepy uber-spymaster named "Mr. Jones," who looked like Elvis Costello on an off day. She'd been relaying inside information on Section One all along to "Mr. Jones," in the idealistic hope that somehow Section One could be humanized.
Fat chance. When it all hit the fan, Madeline - Nikita's emotionless, torturing zombie superior - chomped on a cyanide pill and went off to go wherever it is that torturing saboteurs go when their earthly days are over. Birkoff, the computer chipmunk among them, was already a goner.
Don't feel bad if all of this seems about as immediate and gripping as reading about a 1933 comic strip. It really was a remarkable TV show, you see, but only to those who'd been watching "La Femme Nikita" all along and knew it to be the most remarkable allegory of corporate politics ever put on television.
That's why the show was canceled - not its excellence, really, but its floundering ratings. As good as it was, "La Femme Nikita" was in Time Slot Hell - on at 10 p.m. Sundays opposite "The Practice," one of the best shows, week to week, on the air and a magnet for the eyes of the literate everywhere. When Nikita's luck was singularly bad, she was opposite "The Sopranos," too.
So they sent "La Femme Nikita" off to the graveyard of cable-TV-series-in-rerun, to join the eternal slumber party already occupied by "Silk Stalkings."
Then the fun really started.
All the Nikitites came out of the woodwork to stand up and be counted. Some were in the established press. Many found whatever spot they could on the Internet, which lit up like the switchboard of the Florida Supreme Court at election time.
Never underestimate the power of viewer disgruntlement. It's never going to conquer the known TV world but it can move a mountain or two, if the mountain is small enough.
While Peta Wilson - who played Nikita - was off playing S & M lesbian aggressors in bad Ellen Barkin movies, (don't ask; Wilson is, sad to say, not an easy actress to cast), the forces of reinstatement were out. The voices to bring her back became a chorus and a reasonably loud one at that.
Well, we won last week. Sort of. "La Femme Nikita" came back for an eight-week run. That's not exactly a year-long commitment but it's better than a sharp stick in the eye.
In the new "La Femme Nikita," our heroine - now revealed to be a very slippery spy among spies - came back to Section One from headquarters to receive an understandably chilly reception. That'll happen when one's molehood is brought out in the open for all the world to see.
Except, that is, for a bright, eager, young acolyte in the world of hugger-mugger who made a point of congratulating Nikita in public for her efforts to humanize a decidedly inhuman environment.
Before the episode was over, she had to nod her tearful assent to his liquidation on the job. He'd served a minor function in a spy maneuver and when his usefulness was finished, he took a .45 slug to the aorta while he was still beaming at everyone with occupational pride.
And that, I tell you, is what makes "La Femme Nikita" one of the most interesting hour-long series in TV history, no matter what the chessboard programmers at the USA Network seemed to think.
Forget all the spy action stuff - those secret, semi-Bondian meetings of nefarious world-gobbling organizations which have to be infiltrated and disrupted with plastique. The real weekly story of "Nikita" is about double-dealing and betrayal and keeping humanity alive in an organization that has little, if any, use for such an antiquated concept.
It is, cumulatively, so much better than the French film by Luc Besson that it's based on that it is continually surprising, even to those who know the film and have watched the series from the beginning.
The real viewer validation, though, of what "La Femme Nikita" did for four years, has come from all the post-"Survivor" "reality programming" that has come upon us.
Long before "Survivor" got around to it, "La Femme Nikita" was a weekly portrait of situation ethics in a treacherous, back-stabbing world. And now, get this, we have a "reality TV" number that is actually called "The Mole" in which the whole point is to figure out who the saboteur is in a group of primetime gamesmen.
If all this isn't telling you something about the current state of occupational politics in corporate and professional America, then I submit you may not be paying the most rapt attention.
Meanwhile, we have Nikita back where she belongs for the next seven weeks.
Now if only we can do something about getting "Sports Night" out of rerun aspic (see the Comedy Central Network on Thursday nights) and back for real.