Originally created 03/10/99

Creator lends filmmaker's touch to UPN's `7 Days'



UPN's 7 Days is a little show that thinks big.

The time-traveling sci-fi series stands out, not as a ratings magnet for the fledgling network, but because of the creator, Christopher Crowe.

Mr. Crowe, who makes theatrical films as well as TV series, co-wrote the Daniel Day-Lewis feature The Last of the Mohicans. When he designed the pilot for 7 Days, he brought a filmmaker's eye. And he wanted the pilot to stand on its own.

"I tend to approach pilots as I would a motion picture," he said. "I approach them as a piece of entertainment without a great deal of series setup. I want the pilot to work and to like the cast and the dynamic. ... Then you get the architecture of a plan that would work episodically."

So the usual cookie-cutter approach to making a series for television wouldn't do for 7 Days, which airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (WBEK-TV, Channel 67). "We're doing handmade television," he said.

The 7 Days story line revolves around operatives at a secret military base in the Nevada desert who use technology taken from a downed spacecraft in Roswell, N.M., to send a person back through the space-time continuum exactly seven days.

The fuel to do this comes from the salvaged alien craft and is in limited supply. So "Operation Backstep" can be used only to alter the most cataclysmic events -- the cataclysms come about once a week -- and the series' plot lines must work within the seven-day constraints.

"Those are the rules of our little universe," said Mr. Crowe. "But after that I've tried to keep it eclectic -- and surprising."

The cast is led by Australian actor Jonathan LaPaglia as Frank Parker. Mr. LaPaglia, brother of actor Anthony LaPaglia, worked as an emergency physician before switching to acting. He appeared briefly on the Fox cop show New York Undercover before winning his 7 Days role as the former Navy SEAL and CIA black-ops agent who does the time-traveling.

At first, Parker was considered smart but uncontrollable -- as well as expendable -- by the scientists and military types who work behind him. But they soon learned how valuable he could be when he's saving the world from deadly viruses, terrorist bombs or leaky nuclear submarines.

Since the series began last fall, Mr. Crowe has done a lot of experimenting with the show. "We've learned where our assets are and where are liabilities are, and we're refining," he said.

He wants "not to be able to just change the bad guys and have a new show for that week. ... TV shows are, after all, only a distraction for the culture. But you do take it seriously."