Gone, But Not Forgotten:
By Jessica Dwyer
Back in the late 90’s ABC premiered three really great series that wouldn’t last a full season. There’s no accounting for taste I suppose…we can’t all be the wonder filled goodness that is Desperate Housewives (do you hear the sarcasm in that statement?)
Anyway…those three shows were Fantasy Island (starring the beautifully menacing Malcolm McDowell as a far darker Mr. Roark) Cupid (starring the now hot as a bonfire Jeremy Piven), and the show that this article is about (and the best of the three) Vengeance Unlimited.
VU was an amazing show starring tough guy extraordinaire Michael Madsen. The premise wasn’t a new one, but the execution was. The plot was this: Mr. Chapel (Madsen) is a man of mystery who had something very bad happen to him in his past. Hints are given to what it was and it most likely involved the death of a wife and child. But his past is shrouded in mystery and haunted looks. Chapel has now dedicated himself to helping those whom the justice system has let down.
He sends newspaper clippings to those he sees have been wronged by the system. One shows a case before he’s become involved and the next shows the resolution. Then there is the newspaper clipping about the persons own problem. This is followed by a white piece of paper with Chapel’s phone number. The person calls him and he shows up with this proposition: Pay him a million dollars or you can owe him a favor for when the next person he helps needs a hand.
Chapel receives help in the form of KC, a former client who works for the DA’s office. KC gets called in for a favor on a case and winds up helping Chapel full time, much to the displeasure of her superiors at the DA. KC tries to figure out what happened to Chapel while assisting him. She also brings out a tender side to the big guy that a lot of people don’t get to see (although a couple of his female clients get under the armor.)
Mr. Chapel is Madsen at his crazy best with his deadpan delivery and quirky dance moves from Reservoir Dogs all intact. Chapel is a combination of all that great in his repertoire of acting. The noir mystery man, seemingly psychopath, sweetie at heart who has eyes that could cut steel with a glance; all these were represented by the awesome Mr. Chapel.
KC was played by the striking redhead Kathleen York. KC is that rare female sidekick who isn’t annoying. You like her even when she comes off as far too naive. There are points during the series your sure she and Chapel are going to hook up, but alas, you since the show was cancelled that never got a chance to happen. You get the feeling that KC is intimidated by the memory of whomever it was that Chapel lost and doesn’t feel confident enough to try. She’s also afraid of him, but not just that…there’s almost a family vibe between them that’s hard to label. It’s a great chemistry.
Guest stars in the show included guys like Gregg Henry (who you might know from films like Payback or Slither), Ray Wise, and even a Pre-Saw Tobin Bell.
The series Co-Creator, John McNamara was the writer behind a couple of other great shows featuring quirky dark humor; Brisco County Jr. and Profit…both of which were on the FOX network and both having died before their time.
Sadly, VU was cancelled after only a partial season of episodes. The show was on ABC who are notorious for canning shows without giving them a chance to thrive. Nearly as bad as FOX in that regard, VU was moved round and played at times that made it hard to find.
Unfortunately for those who never got a chance to see it, VU is not available on DVD yet. But there are some copies floating around the internet of homemade box sets that fans have made. You can sometimes catch them on Ebay! as well as Ioffer.com for around 30 bucks or less. There have been campaigns to get it an official release on DVD but as yet none are successful.
Vengeance Unlimited was one of the best shows to have been cancelled in a while. It’s a great dark little gem of a series that was fun to watch and see the bad guys get paid back. It also gave Madsen a chance to shine in a role that let him actually act and not stand around glaring behind a pair of sunglasses (although he does that too in this…come on the Ray Bans are a given). If you are fan of the Michael Madsen or good TV in general hunt it up online or write into SleuthTV and see if you can’t help get replays on the air.