Sci Fi Channel’s “Tin Man” miniseries provides “postmodern” take on “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”



By Kinny Littlefield

LOS ANGELES – No dancing down the yellow brick road for Zooey Deschanel, star of Sci Fi Channel’s new Emerald City adaptation, “Tin Man.” And no warbling “Over the Rainbow” a la Judy Garland, either.

“It’s postmodern, more like Indiana Jones than a fairy tale,” said Deschanel, whose Dorothy – the role immortalized by Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” – is a disaffected, motorcycle-riding waitress called DG.

Based on L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which inspired the 1939 film classic, Sci Fi’s six-hour “Tin Man” is not a musical but a brooding, special effects-driven fantasy.

“The book was written in 1900 and its story still lives,” said Robert Halmi Sr., one of the executive producers.

“It’s a coming-of-age story,” Deschanel said of the miniseries airing Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.

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“Here’s DG acting out in a teenage way before she gets swept up by the storm,” the actress said of her character’s ride to the alternate universe of the O.Z., or Outer Zone, on the tail of a Kansas tornado. “Then she’s forced to grow up a little bit and find out how brave she is and how smart she is. On this journey, she becomes an adult.”

Along the way DG meets creatures and crises that never crossed Garland’s path.

Still, fans of the 1939 film will recognize the classic scarecrow in zipper-headed Glitch (Alan Cumming), the cowardly lion in the wolverine-human psychic, Raw (Raoul Trujillo), and Dorothy’s little dog in the shape-shifter, Toto (Blu Mankuma).

There’s a wizard of sorts in Richard Dreyfuss’ vapor-sniffing Mystic Man.

There’s also a yellow brick road, although – in keeping with the O.Z.’s shadowy, retro-futuristic look – it barely glimmers.

And the title character, ex-cop Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough), called a tin man for his tin badge, is a far more embittered type than Jack Haley’s metal man was in the movie musical.

Yes, Halmi said, “Tin Man” is a “bit darker. To make a classic understood by young people today you have to talk an entirely different language.”

That language includes a wickedly witchy twist on family ties that “Oz” creator Baum never conjured.

And the evil sorceress Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) gets far more screen time than her predecessor, Margaret Hamilton’s cackling Wicked Witch of the West, did in the Garland film.