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Wizards of Odds

January 18, 2007 By:
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Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden

Harry Potter, P.I.?

No. Harry Dresden, P.I.

But once a wiz, always a wiz.

Which is a good way to describe David Simkins, too. The exec producer/writer of "The Dresden Files," a new super Sci Fi Channel supernatural series about a saucy sorcerer starting Jan. 21 -- conjuring up images of a Rockford-retro detective with a broom for a trailer -- Simkins is simply doing what comes ... unnaturally.

With the twilight zone as his zeitgeist, Simkins clearly enjoys the dark side, sidling up to subjects that are the outer limits of TV topics: "Dark Angel," "Roswell," "Blade: The Series" and no smallville of an achievement -- "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

That's some fantastic four!

But then, fantasy is the real thing for Simkins, whose Hoosier roots have always meant taking a full-court press to writing.

Welcome to the dark side? Well, just wait a minute with that weird otherworldly welcome mat, says Simkins, whose bio boasts other more mundane adventures, such as "Adventures of Babysitting."

Just a nice, Jewish guy from Indiana, indeed, whose genre-generated hi-jinks are close encounters with an ethereal kind of sci-fi stuff?

"It's not that so much, the dark side," explains Simkins of his magnetic magical resume filled with out-there filings, as it is "a little bit of typecasting."

Indeed, once he entered the ethereal ethos of such supernal series as "Dark Angel" and "Charmed," this alternate highway to heaven seemed like just another regular road taken.

But if the TV mindset is ever mindful of duplicating rather than daring, of generating genres rather than birthing breakouts, "Dresden" is draped in startling shrouds of shivers; it's all so abracadabrazen in its bravura.

Yet even these wizards of odds have a home. Based on the books of Jim Butcher, "Dresden" is a meat market for the wild and wonderful, whose real wizardry is in its ability to transcend the extra-special special effects and press the prestidigitation that is the personal lives of its heroes -- which just happens to include Harry's spectral sidekick, Bob, sentenced to servitude by the Wardens, a sort of supernatural adult student council.

Yet this isn't the first time that Simkins has gone by the book: While Butcher's tomes are this series' bibles, Simkin's last effort, "The Book of Daniel," used the Bible as its ... Bible.

Sort of. Controversial and condemned for its postmodern take on a minister with Jesus not so much on his shoulder as "in the house," that series drew more postings and blogs on the Internet than a Jew showing up in the wrong pew to break a Yom Kippur fast by asking for one of those wafers being handed out by the priests.

Indeed, Simkins drew on "Pike's pique," angering the not-so-subtly anti-Semitic tirades of Rev. Ted Pike of the National Prayer Network, whose religious rants on the show adjudicated the series a Jewish conspiracy.

"The powerhouse behind NBC Universal's 'The Book of Daniel' has got to be Jeff Zucker, a Jew," he wrote, then going on to name more of the culprits, "powerful Jews" employed by the corporation, "one of the great Jewish film production companies." (Somehow, you just sense that Pike didn't mean "great" as an endearment.)

Alas, Indiana's Simkins was targeted as indecent, too: "A high percentage of Jewish names occur in the credits of 'The Book of Daniel.' This list includes writers David Simkins ... "

Village of the damned?

Simkins must have felt like making the sign of the Star of David to ward off the wicked attacks. Yet ... "'Daniel,'" he says, "was a great experience" despite "running afoul of some certain close-minded individuals," he adds without citing anyone specific.

But if there is one thing he'd make book on from "Book" to help him with "Dresden" dramaturgy, it's taking the chapter of the chasm between known and unknown.

Simkins cites and salutes Jack Kenny, the "Daniel" series creator, of "making a show not about religion, but about human beings dealing in the world of religion."

And "Dresden Files" may have paged such insightful integrity.

"Here," he says, "the heroes relate to the alternate world," in what, as a cosmic Candide might say, may be the best of all possible sci-fi worlds yet.


 

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