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Series / F/X: The Series

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F/X: The Series is a spinoff TV series based on the films F/X: Murder by Illusion and F/X 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, which ran for 40 episodes and aired from 1996 - 1998.

The show focused on Rollie Tyler (Cameron Daddo), a special effects technician living in New York City with his assistant Angie (Christina Cox). Tyler assists a NYPD detective named Leo McCarthy (Kevin Dobson) with capturing dangerous criminals. Tyler would often have to use his knowledge of special effects to outwit his enemies and stop them, with his complex, effect-heavy plans forming the climax of most episodes. The show also featured Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) as a recurring character—aspiring actress and stunt-person Lucinda Scott—who would often be enlisted to aid in Tyler's illusions. Later episodes also introduced the "Chameleon", a dangerous criminal who had the same ability to create special effects like Tyler, and used his skills to create chaos in the New York area.

The show performed a Retool at the opening of its second season, killing off one of the main characters and replacing them with Det. Mira Sanchez (Jacqueline Torres), who appeared for the remainder of the show's second (and final) season.

F/X was filmed in and around the Toronto, Ontario area in Canada, where many landmarks could be glimpsed during the series. The show also featured a wide variety of guest stars (including Maria Conchita Alonso, John Spencer, Michael Ironside and others). The show was a mix of Mission: Impossible and MacGyver.

This TV show contains examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Despite plenty of moments of Ship Tease and working closely together, Rollie and Angie never act on their feelings towards each other, instead opting to keep their relationship professional. This is then subverted in the final episode of the series, where Rollie and Angie consummate their feelings... only for it to be revealed that Victor Loubar took on Rollie's identity and slept with her, leading her to shut down emotionally for a time.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Each episode concludes with a credits sequence of Rollie's van driving off to its next job.
  • Anyone Can Die / Death by Cameo: Leo McCarthy, who dies seconds after he's glimpsed working as an undercover operative at a drug deal at the beginning of the second season premiere. A major part of the second season is the investigation following his death.
  • Automated Automobiles: An automated car that can arrest criminals... is a remote-controlled prop used in a Show Within a Show.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Carrie-Anne Moss hams up her performances as amateur actor Lucille.
  • Bombproof Appliance: A bomb is found in a fridge, and the team uses a cannon prop to direct the oncoming blast away from them.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: In the first-season episode "Target", a sniper uses fireworks to mask his sniper shot on Leo to prevent anyone from hearing the noise. However, Rollie's team (in addition to protecting Leo by projecting his reflection in a pane of glass pointed at the window) has special software that can isolate the gunshot and counter with an appropriate gadget.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Any special effect introduced in the opening scene will be used later by Tyler against dangerous criminals.
  • Clear My Name: The pilot episode finds Rollie having to do this after being blamed for the death of a man after he helps a woman escape an abusive relationship.
  • Commuting on a Bus: After randomly disappearing at the end of the first season, Lucille shows up again in the second-season episode "Flashback", where she tells Rollie and the team that she got a bit part on a show. Although she helps them solve the case in the episode, she disappears after and isn't seen again.
  • The Con: The team's bread and butter. Generally, they con criminals into revealing their plans or locations, if not tricking the criminals to drop the hostages or come out of hiding and run straight into the hands of the police.
  • Continuity Nod: Leo McCarthy's death still lingers in Rollie's mind, as it's mentioned in two casual conversations much later in the second season.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Det. Rodriguez's ex-husband is revealed to be a bank robber who takes hostages, with her caught in the middle, just one episode after she "joins" Rollie's team, requiring his involvement to rescue the hostages.
  • Cool Car: Rollie's work van (which is emblazoned with the word "FX", stylized in the show's logo) is filled with computer systems, gadgets and other equipment that helps the team during its operations, as is befitting a special-effects unit that's called out to a variety of jobs.
  • Counterfeit Cash: In the first season episode "Shivaree", the criminals have access to a money printing machine and plates to create currency, and when discovered, were going to take the plates with them if it weren't for the police raid.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second season did this - first by replacing the quaint first-season opening sequence with credits filled with darker colours and flames, then by killing one main character and almost offing another, and finally ending with a main character's rape at the hands of the series' longest running villain.
  • Diplomatic Impunity:
    • The criminal in "Shivaree" tries claiming diplomatic immunity while being arrested in the counterfeiting operation.
    • Used in episode 14 of the first season. The son of a diplomat runs over a police officer during a drug bust and claims immunity.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rollie's father, Dingo, did this to him when he was much younger, and only reappears (in a first-season episode) to request help getting rid of a gambling problem with a bookie.
  • Enhance Button: Used very frequently. Partially justified, because the film being analyzed is generally from movie shoots, so it's very high quality film and cameras.
  • Evil Counterpart: Victor Loubar, a.k.a. "The Chameleon". Like Tyler, he's a master of disguises. Unlike Tyler, he's also an assassin.
  • Expy: Johnny Chu is essentially Jackie Chan with more of a gangsta influence, right down to being well known for doing all of his own stunts. Similarly, Jurgen is essentially Arnold Schwarzenegger complete with oversized muscles and overdone Austrian accent.
  • External Combustion:
    • Used at one point to eliminate an inconvenient witness. Or, rather, to eliminate the stand-in so that the witness can get off scot-free. It first sets the car on fire, killing the driver, then blows up in a huge explosion several seconds later.
    • In another episode, a main character is saved from this by her habit of remote-starting the car with one of Rollie's gadgets: The car explodes in front of her and she's hospitalized.
  • Fake Action Prologue: Just like the films, several episodes open with an extended sequence from one of Rollie's projects, with the effects team coming in at the end to fix a prop, advise an actor or reset the scene.
  • Fake Pregnancy: In the first-season episode "High Risk", it is revealed that one of the hostages in the building takeover is actually an accomplice to the villain, and sports a fake baby bump while reporting on the SWAT team's activities to her cohorts upstairs. She's eventually discovered when Lucille figures out the trickery and rips the woman's blouse off, revealing the foam padding underneath.
  • Faked Rip Van Winkle: Used on a member of a terrorist squad to convince him that a planted bomb had already gone off. After he confessed the bombing location on allegedly live TV, the team was able to find the bomb location. However, the criminal became alerted of the ruse upon looking at a test pattern on the TV.
  • Faking the Dead: Another frequent use of the special effects department. Justified, given that was the basis of the first movie.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: For the French DVD release, a subtitle was added to the title to spell out what "FX" stood for.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: A frequent part of the team's schemes. Just when it looks like their plan's been revealed, the revelation turns out to be yet another part of the con.
  • Latex Perfection: A frequent part of the team's plans. Done a bit more realistically in that the masks are applied in pieces (albeit originally cast in one piece so the viewer can see the entire face), are applied with glue, and have supplemental makeup to make them look more effective. Also, we see scenes of the target practicing the voice and mannerisms of the target.
  • Left Hanging: The show ends without resolving major plot threads like Angie's rape and the Chameleon's whereabouts in the final episode.
  • Magician Detective: Rollie qualifies for this trope, as he uses similar techniques of deception and misdirection to fool suspects. Movie magic is still magic.
  • Make Some Noise: In episode 12, a high frequency noise is used that shatters glasses and causes people hearing it to collapse in pain.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Angie's general outfit is a cropped shirt that nicely shows off her toned abs. A first-season episode also has a moment where Lucille's shirt is ripped off (when she's kidnapped by gangsters who realize she's wearing a wire), and she is tied to a chair in that position for half of the episode.
  • Omniscient Database: Rollie's computers are pretty close to magical in terms of the data they can access when needed.
  • Pinocchio Nose: Used literally to humorous effect in the opening movie scene of episode 7 of season 1.
  • Product Placement: Rollie is often seen using an Iomega Jaz drive and the related disks.
  • Proscenium Reveal: This happens Once an Episode, where a scene turns out to be either a scene staged by Rollie's team, or part of a film they're working on.
  • Rape as Drama: The series finale, "Red Storm", involves Angie seemingly consummating the Will They or Won't They? relationship with Rollie. She later learns after the fact that the arc villain Victor Loubar was impersonating him, leading her to realize she was raped and to seek revenge on him.
  • Robot Buddy: "Blue" is a mobile multi-legged robot that prowls around in Rollie's studio. It sports a wi-fi antenna tail, visual sensors, and the sound files of a dog. He's mainly used as a fancy remote control and conversation piece, but he's been shown to have about the intelligence level of a common dog, up to the point of being able to follow voice commands and operate autonomously, making observations while Rollie is out.
  • Serial Escalation: The series is built on Rollie one-upping the villains through this trope, employing plenty of trickery in the process. Want to stop an illegal car ring? Set up your own fake car ring in an arena and push them out of business! Want to make a criminal believe his building robbery has gone south? Pretend to have a plane crash into your building, then trick him into thinking the whole place is on fire! Want to take down an elite criminal who gambles on a casino airliner? Go undercover as a fellow high-roller, commit legal acts of thievery and bankrupt the casino!
  • Spotting the Thread: Lucille figures out a robber's Fake Pregnancy in "High Risk" by pointing out that the foam baby bump is similar to an outfit she wore while doing a walk-on role in a film.
  • Strictly Formula: While some episodes carry over recurring villains or supporting heroes, each episode revolves around a standalone situation that requires the F/X team's involvement or expertise. The only time the formula is avoided is in the second season, when Leo McCarthy's murder, and the quest to capture the villains responsible for it forms the basis of the first and fourth episodes of the season.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Detective Mira Rodriguez (Jacqueline Torres), who joins the team after Leo McCarthy is killed at the beginning of the second season.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Used sparsely given that the show is set right near Chinatown, but they appear as antagonists in episode 11 of the first season.
  • Uncertain Doom: In the final episode of the series, Angie (incensed over Victor Loubar offering to surrender himself after nearly assassinating a high-ranking politician) unloads an entire pistol magazine into a river as he turns tail and flees once again. The show ends without answering if he was fatally wounded or managed to escape.