La Femme Nikita

Having missed a good part of the original La Femme Nikita series when it was broadcast, and noting it was often referred to as an example in production discussions, I bought the original, five-year series and reviewed it. La Femme Nikita

I can see how the casting, script, filming, editing, and music elements made the original TV series one of the biggest hits in cable TV's history.

 The technical elements hold up amazingly well over the decades since it was filmed. In fact, some are still valid and even credible promises for the future. 

In addition to the technology angle, there are six additional elements that not only made the TV series successful, but altered the entire direction of dramatic production.

1. The series introduced a highly condensed style of writing dialogue. The approach was, don't say it if you can show it or the audience can figure it out.

Every unnecessary word was removed from the dialogue, which meant that things could move much faster. Editing decisions coupled with fleeting expressions from actors often suggested content and story.

2. Second, available light photography, rather new for the time, was used to provide a new level of realism.  One of the directors (who presumably was in the appropriate union) did some of his own cinematography.

3. Having a female action lead was new and risky (even though it thereafter quickly became commonplace). The success this TV series is widely credited to Peta Wilson, an inexperienced female lead at the time who helped break new ground for women.

Nikita was a gutsy and highly demanding role. The fact that Wilson, an Australia-to-U.S. actress, insisted on doing most of her own stunts added considerable credibility to the role.

4. Not mentioned in Module 5 was the dark, untrusting and often depressing environment that pervaded almost every element of the La Femme Nikita stories.  

Some people have noted, that although Peta Wilson 2 exaggerated, the series reminds them of a modern-day, highly competitive work place.

In La Femme Nikita this was taken to a life-and-death level where you could trust no one at any time, even those who were supposedly your friends.

5. The series routinely grappled with complex and vexing, the-lesser-of-the-evils moral issues.

6. And finally, the series used haunting selections of music, unlike any series before it.

>>In the spy word of La Femme Nikita associates or even friends were expendable (and often expended). Anything or any means justified the ends.

The series paints a chilling, dark and unsettling picture of the spy world.

It may be telling that Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former head of Russia's KGB, was reportedly a fan of the series and in particular Peta Wilson. Putin, reportedly gave Wilson a diamond necklaces as a present.

The ideas in the original La Femme Nikita TV series may be "old hat" now (they were widely copied), but they represented relatively new concepts at the time.

The CW Network tried to resurrect the Nikita series in 2010 with an actress that looked nothing like the original blond, blue-eyed La Femme Nikita of the original USA Network series. The CW series was canceled in 2013.

-Ron Whittaker

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