Nikita May Get Stay of Execution
John Dempsey, Variety (13 August 2000)
NEW YORK (Variety) - TV executives are working feverishly to resurrect USA's ``La Femme Nikita'' from what looks like a premature burial.
``Nikita,'' the cable TV series adaptation of the 1990 hit French movie, received its official cancellation notice in May after a solid 88-episode run on the USA network. The series was losing money for its distributor, Warner Bros., which couldn't justify keeping it in production for another year.
But over the last few weeks, original episodes of ``Nikita'' airing Sundays at 10 have continued to harvest a sizable crop of cable subscribers, averaging close to a 2 rating in USA homes despite limited promotion.
By contrast, three of the network's four fresh primetime series -- ``The War Next Door'' (Sundays at 9), ``Manhattan, AZ'' (Sundays at 9:30) and ``Cover Me'' (Wednesdays from 9-10) -- have disappointed, hovering between a 1 and a 1.5 rating in cable homes. The fourth newcomer, ``The Huntress'' (Wednesdays from 10-11), is a bright spot, averaging in the high 1's.
While the new series' Nielsens are keeping USA execs swallowing fistfuls of Prozac, the network is just a month away from losing its two massive audience generators: the World Wrestling Federation series Mondays from 9-11, which chalks up a stunning 6 rating in cable homes, and the WWF hour Sunday at 7, which averages between a 2.5 and a 3 rating.
So it's not surprising that known commodities like ``Nikita'' have suddenly taken on heightened importance, propelling USA and Warner Bros. to reconvene at the bargaining table to tear up the May pinkslip and prepare to greenlight another 22 hours for 2001. Warner Bros. and USA declined to comment on the ``Nikita'' talks, but sources said the two parties could cement the deal by the middle of the week. The series stars Peta Wilson in the title role and Roy Dupuis as her mentor.
USA Chasing La Femme Nikita
Jim McConville, Electronic Media (21 August 2000)
"I'll be back."
La Femme Nikita star Peta Wilson may get to utter Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous line from Terminator now that USA Network is back in the hunt to re-sign the series.
Faced with imminent loss of its World Wrestling Federation ratings franchise in September and the flat performances of its own new summer series, USA Network is again courting Warner Bros. Television in hopes of reviving its successful action/adventure series for a fifth season.
USA executives confirmed they are holding talks with Warner Bros., and said they are close to signing a deal for 22 more episodes of Nikita. The series was presumed dead after the two sides failed to reach a renewal agreement this spring. USA Cable President Stephen Chao has maintained that USA has always wanted to bring Nikita back for another season but said Warner Bros.' asking price was too high.
"There hasn't been a change of heart at USA," Mr. Chao said. "We have always been at the table talking with Warner Bros., trying to re-up it."
Launched in 1996, La Femme Nikita became the cornerstone of USA's Sunday night prime-time lineup. The series starring Ms. Wilson, an Australian actor, reached its peak in 1998, averaging a 2.4 Nielsen Media Research rating in USA's cable universe, representing 2 million homes.
Nikita this summer has still managed to average a 1.6 rating since USA's new season began June 25 and most recently hit a 1.7 rating and 1.3 million homes two weeks ago.
Considering USA's prime-time ratings performance this summer, the network could use a new season of Nikita.
USA's prime-time ratings for July dropped 8 percent to a 2.2, representing 1.7 million homes, according to Nielsen.
Mr. Chao is still looking for his first original series hit since he took over as head of USA in October 1998. Two of his high-profile series, Happy Hour, a revisionist variety show, and Good vs. Evil, a black comedy, were canceled after less than a year.
The USA executive was banking on his new slate of three prime-time series -- action/adventure show The Huntress and Sunday night comedies The War Next Door and Manhattan, Az. to strike a chord with viewers.
So far, none of these shows has delivered, making Mr. Chao's mandate to find a new hit even more acute.
Launched July 26, The Huntress so far is averaging a 1.7 rating and 1.3 million homes for its 10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday slot, flat with last quarter.
The War Next Door and Manhattan, Az. so far are averaging a 1.3 rating and a 1.1 rating, respectively, for their 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sunday time slots compared with the 1.5 rating the time slot averaged last quarter.
Observers say that USA's poor ratings and its impending loss of the WWF probably led the network back to the bargaining table.
"La Femme Nikita has been one of USA's cornerstones," said Mike Goodman, analyst for the Yankee Group.
"They've lost their signature WWF series. How many more hits can USA afford to take? Losing a show like Nikita is not something you want to do willingly."
In July, Ms. Wilson fueled speculation that Nikita was dead in the water.
"It's done -- don't even go there," Ms. Wilson told reporters at Showtime Network's Television Critics Association panel to promote her upcoming movie, A Girl Thing. But Ms. Wilson then said the door was still open to do a series of Nikita movies.
"The Nikita sets haven't been destroyed, which could make movies possible," she said.
Nikita Back for Season 5
ScifiWire (28 August 2000)
Producers of USA Network's canceled series La Femme Nikita reported that USA and Warner Brothers have reached an agreement to bring the show back for a short fifth season, according to a message board post on the show's official Web site. Production spokesman and writer Christopher Heyn said that Nikita will return for eight new episodes, debuting in January.
The new episodes will bring back regular cast members Peta Wilson (Nikita), Roy Dupuis (Michael), Eugene Robert Glazer (Operations), Alberta Watson (Madeleine), Don Francks (Walter) and Matthew Ferguson (Jason Crawford). "However, because of this season's revised budget, not all actors can be in every episode. [The powers that be] are making the best of this situation by creating a season-long arc where every character plays a role in the overall story. In addition to our regulars, Kate Quinn will return to Comm, and there are plans to bring back one or two notable guest characters from previous seasons as well," Heyn said. Executive consultant Robert Cochran will head the writing staff and will write season five's premiere episode.
USA canceled Nikita in May because of a contract dispute with Warner, but took up talks to revive the series when the broadcast of the season's last original episodes drew strong ratings. Season four's finale aired Aug. 27.
Heyn thanked the fans, particularly those at First Team and the Save LFN Web site for helping bring the show back. "Without your daily efforts in generating literally thousands of letters, e-mails and faxes (not to mention TV sets, remotes, VCRs and fliers handed out personally) to USA and WB, this deal probably would never have happened," Heyn said.
USA Confirms Nikita Is Back
ScifiWire (29 August 2000)
As expected, USA Network officially announced the return of its canceled SF series La Femme Nikita under a new agreement with Warner Brothers and Fireworks Entertainment. USA Cable President Stephen Chao announced that the series would return for eight new episodes, starting in "early 2001." USA had canceled the series in a contract dispute with Warner.
"The fans of La Femme Nikita have shown us the commitment they have for this show, and while we were determined to keep it on USA Network, their tenacity and obvious desire for the series to continue reinforced our decision to pursue negotiations aggressively for the series' return," Chao said in a statement.
Nikita executive consultant Bob Cochran said in his own statement, "We're thrilled to have the opportunity to continue telling the story of Nikita and Section One. We have every intention of making these eight episodes as provocative and unpredictable as any we've seen before on the series. It's going to be a wild ride."
La Femme Is Not Fatale
David Bianculli, Daily News (31 August 2000)
USA Network treated La Femme Nikita rather shabbily last Sunday -- virtually tossing away its three-part series finale by scheduling it over two weeks and interrupting the flow of the final two hours with episodes of The War Next Door and Manhattan, Az. It deserved better than a quick, ugly cancellation.
Now, almost belatedly, it's getting a new lease: a round of eight episodes to debut early next year, with Peta Wilson in the title role. Other cast members will also appear in an as yet unknown number of episodes.
USA, which had balked at terms for renewing Nikita, reconsidered after complaints by fans and critics (which mattered little) and an analysis of the less-than-spectacular ratings for its newest slate of series (which mattered a lot).
This sudden change of heart and unexpected invitation back into the fold ironically mirrors the recent plot twists of Nikita itself. Wilson's Nikita, at the start of this fourth season, was reprogrammed by her superiors -- Eugene R. Glazer's Operations and Alberta Watson's Madeline -- into a ruthless killer with no compassion even for Michael (Roy Dupuis), her secret lover and superior operative. Among other things, this toughened Peta's edge, and slinked her wardrobe down to Emma Peel-ish proportions.
Michael risked his own life to capture and deprogram her, and escaped his own death sentence only by pitting the agency's two main powers against each other. By the end of the season, no one could be trusted and even Nikita was two-faced, in a literal sense. She turned Michael over to the enemy, stole and erased her own computer records as an operative, then had prosthetic work to make herself look like another Section spy -- so that she could return to her old headquarters, spy on her bosses, observe the hunt for her, and, in effect, hide in plain sight.
In practical terms, this seemed like an easy way to write Wilson out of the series -- except that once Michael saw through Nikita's charade, her voice returned to normal and, soon thereafter, so did her face. Michael and Nikita fled Section to find peace and get away from the spy life -- but that, too, was a temporary respite. And with La Femme Nikita coming back next year, the break won't be for long.
Chill Out, Fans: Nikita To Return
Steven J. Stark, Chicago Sun-Times (31 August 2000)
After a lobbying effort by the show's devoted fans, USA Network said it will produce eight new episodes of the series, which will begin airing weekly early next year.
"Nikita," based on the 1990 movie of the same name, was canceled in May after airing on USA since January 1997. Star Peta Wilson had moved on to other projects, including a role in "It's a Girl Thing," a four-hour Showtime miniseries scheduled to air early next year.
A group of 13 fans, known online as the First Team, led a campaign to resurrect "Nikita." First Team set up a Web site May 24 that received more than 72,000 hits from fans in 40 countries. A message board was set up in June and received more than 100,000 visits.
The updated Web site announced the news Tuesday and suggested to fans that they write followup notes thanking executives at USA, distributor Warner Bros. Television and the show's sponsors.
"I would have preferred a full season of 22 episodes with the entire cast," reads one part of the suggested form letter. "Perhaps that could be an option later in the season, after the dust has settled. Meanwhile, I am happily looking forward to new episodes of 'La Femme Nikita' in January 2001."
USA Cable President Stephen Chao praised the fans' commitment to the show but said the network wanted to bring it back all along.
"The truth is (that) I, we, USA have always loved 'La Femme Nikita,' " Chao said. "I am a big fan of Peta Wilson. It has been a long negotiation, and it has taken a lot of twists and turns. The final down-to-the-wire issue has been negotiating with Warner Bros. . . . It takes two parties to come to an agreement to renew a show where all the contracts expired. They're the ones responsible for cast, crew and writing."
Chao said fans should be satisfied by what will be a complicated and dramatic story arc.
"Peta Wilson and other cast members will be coming back," he said. "In what ratio, balance and what shows, I can't speak. They're still writing the outlines."
"Nikita" executive consultant Bob Cochran said he was thrilled to keep the show going.
"We have every intention of making these eight episodes as provocative and unpredictable as any we've seen before on the series," he said. "It's going to be a wild ride."
While "Nikita" fans were certainly tenacious, they also had good timing, because USA Network lost its mainstay programming, World Wrestling Federation, to TNN, said Derek Baine, a senior analyst at Paul Kagan Associates, a media consulting firm in Carmel, Calif.
"(USA has) a huge void to fill here," Baine said. "Any of the shows they have on the air right now that are doing well, they'll probably put more ad dollars into because it's easier to keep an existing show going than to market a new show. If there are shows that are marginal, they may try to beef them up and boost the ratings a bit."
Chao disagreed, saying negotiations with Warner Bros. about "Nikita" predated any WWF issues.
Fans Fly to Nikita's Rescue
Rob Salem, The Toronto Star (31 August 2000)
Cherchez La Femme.
A handful of dedicated fans helped earn a last-minute reprieve for the Toronto-shot series La Femme Nikita, and eight new episodes are being ordered by its American cable carrier, the USA Network.
Hamilton's ONtv, which airs Nikita locally (Thursday nights at 10), cannot confirm when or even whether it will be airing the additional episodes.
"We haven't been told definitely," network publicist Denise Dickie said. " We're awaiting confirmation."
Older episodes also air nationally Fridays at 8 p.m., on the Showcase cable service.
La Femme Nikita, based on the 1990 movie of the same name, was cancelled by USA Network in May, having aired there since January, 1997. Star Peta Wilson had moved on to other projects, including a role in It's A Girl Thing, a four- hour miniseries starring Stockard Channing, shot in Vancouver for the American Showtime cable channel and scheduled to air early next year.
A group of 13 fans, known online as the First Team, led the campaign to save Nikita. A Web site initiated May 24 received more than 72,000 hits from fans in 40 countries, and a message board for fans set up in June received more than 100,000 visits.
USA Network president Stephen Chao praised the fans' commitment to the show, but he insisted the network had wanted to bring it back all along.
"The truth is I, we, USA have always loved La Femme Nikita,' " Chao said Tuesday. "I am a big fan of Peta Wilson. It has been a long negotiation, and it has taken a lot of twists and turns. The final down-to-the-wire issue has been negotiating with Warner Bros. . . . It takes two parties to come to an agreement to renew a show where all the contracts expired. They're the ones responsible for cast, crew and writing."
Chao said fans should be satisfied by what will be a complicated and dramatic story arc.
"Peta Wilson and other cast members will be coming back," he added. "In what ratio, balance and what shows, I can't speak. They're still writing the outlines."
Nikita executive consultant Bob Cochran said he was thrilled to keep the show going. "We have every intention of making these eight episodes as provocative and unpredictable as any we've seen before on the series. It's going to be a wild ride."
Wilson had hinted at the possibility of Nikita's resurrection last month at the press conference for It's A Girl Thing during the TV critics tour in Pasadena, Calif.
If only under duress.
"Oh, don't even go there," the Australian actress groaned, slumping in her chair when the subject was broached. "I'm not answering any questions about La Femme Nikita. We're here to talk about It's A Girl Thing. I'm really sorry. I had a really good time. We don't know what's going to happen next. Things change."
Later, however, she deigned to elaborate, no doubt encouraged by co-star Channing, who was more than happy to talk about her sideline series, The West Wing.
"The 'freeze' on Nikita was purely a political thing," Wilson complained. "It really had nothing to do with us, the cast, or the fans. It wasn't really personal.
"I have a very good relationship with Warner Bros. We are in talks about doing a new show. They haven't destroyed the sets on La Femme Nikita yet."
And very soon those very same sets, which have been sitting silently these past few months, gathering dust in an old Mississauga factory, will once again be bustling with intrigue, espionage and assorted covert activities.
USA Reprieves Nikita, Thrills Fanatical Corps
Linda Moss, Multichannel News (4 September 2000)
USA Network worked out a deal with Warner Bros. Television that will save cult favorite La Femme Nikita from an untimely demise, officials said last week.
Under the deal, USA has ordered eight new episodes of the dark hour-long primetime drama, with actress Peta Wilson set to reprise her role as the lead character. The new episodes will start airing in early 2001 under the agreement between USA, Fireworks Entertainment and distributor Warner Bros.
This spring, USA and Warner Bros. failed to reach an agreement or come to financial terms on renewal of Nikita, which debuted in January 1997, for a new season. So the series was considered canceled following the airing of its final new episodes in August.
With word of the Warner Bros.-USA stalemate, Nikita's loyal fans jumped into action. Over the past few months, they have flooded both sides with mail, sunglasses (like those worn by cast members), TV sets and dollar bills, campaigning for the series to be saved.
USA Cable president Stephen Chao said that while he certainly was aware of the fans' support and commitment to Nikita, his network never wanted to give up on the show and had kept talks going for months.
"We've been negotiating nonstop since January," Chao said. "I've heard the support of the fans, and that only reinforced the fact that we were negotiating. We haven't wavered in our support of the show. But it was a complicated negotiation."
Warner Bros. officials couldn't be reached for comment.
There aren't many precedents for fan support extending the life of a show after its cancellation has been announced. In 1997, USA Cable's Sci Fi Channel picked up Mystery Science Theater 3000 months after Comedy Central pulled it off the air. MST3K finally expired last year.
The rabid Nikita fans first learned that USA and Warner Bros. had reached a pact to continue Nikita from a Web posting by one of the show's consultants Aug. 25, according to Nicole Esposito. She is a Pennsylvania-based Web-page designer who set up a Nikita site, one of many such fan sites. Esposito's is the "Save La Femme Nikita Campaign 2000" command post.
She had the news about Nikita's rescue on her Web site the next day, Aug. 26, days before USA issued its official Aug. 29 press release. The www.savelfn.org site said, "Congratulations LFN fans, we did it!"
While Nikita fans were happy the show would go on, some were disappointed that USA only ordered eight episodes, and not a full season of 22, Esposito said.
"That's what we were able to negotiate," Chao said, referring to the order for eight shows.
While Chao said he had never wavered in his desire to keep Nikita on the air, the show's continuation may help him address some of his programming woes. This summer, a number of the new shows that have debuted on USA have not performed well.
New comedies The War Next Door and Manhattan, AZ have averaged soft 1.2 and 1.0 ratings, respectively, according to Nielsen Media Research. USA'S new drama, The Huntress, has fared better, with a 1.7.
Still, because all of the new series are not clicking, USA was in a special bind that wasn't going to be helped by the departure of Nikita from its Sunday lineup and its looming loss of its blockbuster World Wrestling Federation franchise this fall to The Nashville Network.
For its new episodes from June through August, Nikita averaged a 1.6 rating, said Ray Giacopelli, USA Cable's vice president of research. The finale episode this season, Aug. 27, received a 2.1 rating.
Production of the new Nikita episodes begins this month in Toronto.
Esposito said the fans "worked very hard in essence to promote the show. We felt we helped in that way. The fans consider it a win for all of the work we've done."
At the Television Critics Association tour in July, Wilson said she had been approached about doing a Nikita TV movie.
"I just finished the fourth season of La Femme Nikita, and I really don't know what's going to happen," she said. "The freeze on La Femme Nikita, the trouble, was purely a political thing between the network and the studio. It really had nothing to do with us -- the cast -- or the fans. It wasn't really personal."
Civil Disobedience Resurrects Nikita
Eva Weber, FilmFodder.com (21 September 2000)
It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt—I'm not the only one with impeccable TV taste out there.
I am, of course, talking about my addiction to television's best-kept secret and one of the smartest, most stylish and action-filled TV dramas to ever come along, USA's "La Femme Nikita."
Back in April of this year I stumbled across what is widely known as the Heyn's Hussies board, in honor of Christopher Heyn, Assistant to the Executive Consultant of this fabulous show, dedicated to all things Nikita and populated by fellow fanatics. Nikita-dom, it turns out, is a widespread phenomenon with a considerable online fanbase. Latest intel indicates I'm just one of more than five million people from over 55 countries who follow the heart-wrenching trials of operatives Nikita and Michael, the ruthless schemes of those in charge, Operations and Madeline, and the missions of the most covert anti-terrorist organization on the planet, Section One.
A while ago the fans accepted a mission themselves. The objective: Revive Season Five—by any means necessary.
Lively message board discussion concerning the tight fit of Michael's mission pants and Nikita's hidden agenda had come to a momentary halt in May when USA nonchalantly gave the cancellation order for the series. They cheerily added that the network would instead concentrate on offering new original content such as the critically un-acclaimed "The War Next Door," "Manhattan, AZ" and "The Huntress."
As it turns out, USA had underestimated the dedication and stubborn determination of the Nikita fans. Adapting an infamous line from the Season 2 episode "End Game," many fans immediately announced "It's not over until we say it's over," and set to letting The Powers That Be know just how they felt.
Early campaign efforts included e-mail, snail mail, and countless faxes to head honchos Stephen Chao at USA, Peter Roth at Warner Brothers—which owns the rights to the series—and other top network executives. Chao and Roth kept pointing fingers at each other, insisting it was all a money issue. This prompted the 'dollar bill campaign'; fans mailing dollars to Roth and Chao, with the other's respective return address, asking that the money be donated to the favorite charities of the LFN cast. Some took it a step further and mailed countless sunglasses, gloves, and shoes—all Nikita trademarks—remote controls and old, gutted TV's and VCR's with a note that read "Since LFN isn't coming back, I won't be needing this anymore." In those first weeks, the fans' campaign was driven by outrage and disbelief.
But every successful campaign needs a strategy. An entity known as First Team, "a diverse group of fans from countries around the world," recognized this need for coordination and launched the "SaveLFN" campaign, giving focus and direction to the fan's efforts from their headquarters, a web site called SaveLFN.org, which has to date received over 70,000 unique hits.
"Our wonderful 'LFN troops' were always a source of many ideas," First Team says about mapping out their campaign strategy, "and they have proven to not only be dedicated and intelligent, but very creative and committed. It's been a pleasure and an honor to work with them." But it's difficult to estimate just how many fans have participated in this organized effort, First Team adds, since they can only keep track of those who are online and report their campaign activities.
One of those loyal fans, CelineDeux from New York, has been at the campaign forefront since the cancellation was announced on May 6th. "I have spent a small fortune on stamps and postage," she explained in an e-mail interview, campaigning relentlessly under her personal motto, 'Vive La Femme Nikita.' E-mails, faxes, letters, TV's, VCR's—you name it, she sent it. The thought that the campaign might not succeed has never crossed her mind. Another diligent contributor is Northstar from Ontario, Canada, who took a momentary break from campaigning to e-mail back the answers to my prying questions. Hooked since the episode "Love" in Season One, she began campaigning last fall when cancellation rumors first began to float through cyberspace. In addition to various forms of mail, Northstar posted any and all information pertaining to the campaign to the lists she moderates, the immensely popular 'Michael's Harem' and 'Covert Lovers.' And she will keep campaigning until the bitter end, "until TPTB give us the final answer—this is all you fans are going to get."
By now reports have come in from about 40 countries. "Our online guest book has 6,000 comments in it," First Team says. "Based on what has been reported back, we have tallied at least 30,000 letters, e-mails, faxes and other correspondence in support of LFN's fifth season that have gone out to USA, WB, advertising sponsors and the media."
The ultimate goal, a full season five, 22 episodes, with the entire phenomenal ensemble cast, has not been reached—yet. While USA announced on August 29 that eight new episodes are coming in January, with the cast making appearances throughout, the fans aren't satisfied this easily. "This is a one day at a time, one battle at a time affair," First Team explains. "But we promise to continue until we are satisfied that we did the most complete and efficient job possible." Their motivation—their love for the series, the faith the fans have placed in them and in their own voices—is still strong. And it won't be over until they say so.
Nikita Star Eyes New TV Project
JAM TV (28 September 2000)
Peta Wilson's next project will cast the blond Australian as a real-life criminologist.
Wilson, who currently stars on USA Network's action series "La Femme Nikita," could play a character based on the work of Sheila Balkan, a criminologist and private investigator who studies criminal and human behaviour, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
NBC is now in negotiations with Warner Bros. TV for a pilot episode of the series.
Wilson's current series "La Femme Nikita" ran for four seasons but was cancelled earlier this year. However, in August, the USA network changed its mind and ordered eight more episodes of the series after "Nikita" die-hard enthusiasts lobbied to bring the show back.
Wilson's upcoming acting jobs include the four-hour miniseries "It's A Girl Thing," starring Rebecca De Mornay and Mia Farrow. The series is expected to debut next year.
Cherchez la Femme
Sandra P. Angulo, Entertainment Weekly (2000)
Bullets. Brawn. Babes. That's been the recipe for ratings success at USA, the most watched network on basic cable. But lately, USA's had to alter its winning formula -- particularly since the network lost its flagship offering, the World Wrestling Foundation, to the Nashville Network (TNN)....So after pulling the plug on its four-year-old series "La Femme Nikita," USA did an abrupt U-turn last week, announcing a plan to revive the sexy spy drama for another 8 episodes. "Nikita" fans -- who'd bombarded executives with sunglasses (the heroine's signature accessory) -- rejoiced, but the network still faces a dilemma that even its wily secret agent may not be able to solve: Can the Barry Diller-owned outlet revitalize its original programming in time for fall?
Media analyst Marc Berman says the return of "Nikita" is "just one small step" in a bid to remain on top. "They're going to have to start from square one," says Berman, who predicts a rough road ahead for USA. "Nikita," he points out, is a modest hit, averaging about 1.8 million viewers a week....Spurred on by fan support, USA plans to heavily promote the new episodes, which are now in preproduction and scheduled to air in January. "I'm thinking of it almost as a huge miniseries event," says Stefani Relles, USA's director of development and creative affairs. "Obviously, we hope to keep the momentum building and keep the possibility of even more shows open."
Peta Wilson, who plays the show's titular heroine, has signed on for the revival, and USA is in negotiations with the other principal players. Though the season finale aired Aug. 27, the enigmatic action series left key issues unresolved, including the state of the love/hate relationship between Nikita and her spy-master-lover, Michael (Roy Dupuis). In response came an aggressive Internet-based fan campaign, which mobilized viewers in 40 countries to post over 100,000 messages on a website pleading with USA and Warner Bros. to bring back their favorite program. "It was obvious these people needed closure," says Relles, who personally received more than 20 "funky" sunglasses with pro-"Nikita" messages on the frames. "If only the Nielsens reflected this fanatical following."
Because ratings are the bottom line, media analyst Berman says that networks shouldn't stake their fates on just one series. "USA rode on the coattails of wrestling so much that it failed to create a real identity apart from it," he says. "The only thing you thought of with USA is wrestling." Though the netwrok recently introduced two new original action series -- "The Huntress," about a mother/daughter bounty hunting team, and "Cover Me," an action comedy about an FBI family -- they've yet to attract "Nikita"-size audiences.
Now USA executives are busy honing a post-WWF strategy. Relles says the fall schedule will use new series, original movies, classic axtion pics from its film library and -- like its broadcast competitors -- reality TV: "Ego Challenge," the multisport team competition from "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett...and more episodes of "Last Man Standing"....Too bad USA's chiefs couldn't keep their hands on the WWF.
Instant Guide to La Femme Nikita
Paul Spragg, Cult Times # 63 (December 2000)
The Premise: Nikita, a street kid, sees a man stabbed to death. Found by the police she is arrested for the crime. An organization called Section One thinks she would make a good assassin and take her from prison. Nikita becomes their only agent with a conscience and falls for one of Section’s most lethal killers, Michael, their relationship leading to danger of ‘cancellation’ (ie death) for both of them.
Background: The series is based on the movie Nikita (aka La Femme Nikita), made in 1990 by French genius Luc Besson. A cult hit across the globe, it was remade as The Assassin (retitled Point of No Return) starring Bridget Fonda and flopped hideously due to being rubbish. Leon, from the same director, used similar themes.
First Run: The show began its run in 1996 and was cancelled (ho ho) in 2000. However, it has been returned to production for a few extra episodes after fan complaints.
Number of Episodes: Eighty-eight to the close of Season Four.
The Good Guys: Nikita, obviously. Walter, the weapons specialist, is a good friend to Nikita and tries to help when he can. Birkoff, computer genius, tries to be a good guy, but can be naïve and tends to bow to the orders of Operations, whatever the consequences. Possibly Michael Samuelle, whose impassive exterior hides many a secret feeling.
The Bad Guys: The head of Section, Operations, determined to keep world peace even if it means nuking the odd country. Real name Paul. Madeline: ice-cold torturer and former lover of Operations. Apparently has no feelings for anyone or anything any more. Plus many terrorist organizations, the most prominent being Red Cell.
And Isn’t That... Juliet Landau (Buffy's Drusilla) brilliantly plays diametrically opposite roles in Season Three’s "Before I Sleep"; Hercules/ Xena/ Cleopatra 2525 celeb Gina Torres turns up in a prison in "Open Heart". David (E:FC) Hemblen plays the only man who can control Operations, George from Oversight, from Season Three. Oh, and Mark ‘X-Files’ Snow did the fabulously funky theme tune.
Overdone Clichés: A dramatic rebellion occurs in Section, only to be revealed as a trick to bring down a terrorist or find a traitor; Nikita or Michael’s jealousy leads to trouble.
Fashion Statements: Nikita seems to have access to the latest Paris fashion trends, from odd sunglasses to huge hats. Otherwise, it’s pretty much completely black outfits all the way, plus coloured glasses for Birkoff and a bandana for Walter.