Patriotism for America is rarely represented in the practice of publishing government secrets or conducting shady personal investigations of small-time criminals or polar-bear poachers. “The Lone Gunmen” series reshapes the popular image of hero into three awkward, truth-seeking journalists who manage to show their unwavering pride, ignorance and dedication with each episode.

“The Lone Gunmen,” a spin-off of “The X-Files,” didn’t even make it through a full season; only 13 episodes were shot. The cast of unlikely heroes includes the original three tech-savvy Lone Gunmen (Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund) who helped Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) on “The X-Files” and incorporates two new characters: Jimmy (Stephen Snedden) is a do-gooder with a heart big enough to compensate for his abundant ignorance and näiveté, while Yves (Zuleikha Robinson) is a shadowy figure whose character slowly develops into a person with real motivation to do good.

Most episodes are heart warming yet mediocre. The “Gunmen’s” final four, however, highlight the series’ potential. Given another season to develop characters and plot, this mostly light-hearted fair could have become a quality cult-hit, following in the footsteps of its “X-Files” mother, which managed to survive dismal ratings early on to hammer out nine seasons on Fox.

Unlike its parent series, “Gunmen” is more comedy than drama and has fewer links to the supernatural. Plotlines — comprised of consistently fortunate, “coincidental” plot turns and perpetual happy endings — grow tiresome after just a handful of episodes.

It isn’t until the final episodes that the writing starts to move past these tired dynamics. Despite these weaknesses, the series is still entertaining — both for those who have seen “The X-Files” and for those who haven’t.

The characters are very likable and the situations the Gunmen get themselves into might be far fetched sometimes, but they are always entertaining or funny. As the season progresses character voices become stronger and viewers forge individual connections.

Important “X-Files” characters Mulder and Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) manage well placed cameos, and many episodes — which were shot mainly in Vancouver like early “X-Files” seasons — match the dark look for which “X-Files” creator Chris Carter is known. And despite its universal appeal, the show does cater to its most likely audience — “X-Files” fans.

The special features on the three-disc DVD set are nothing to get excited about. The two standouts are a retrospective featurette and “Jump the Shark,” an “X-Files” episode that brings closure after “Gunmen’s” premature death. There are also four really crappy local Fox promotions and the standard audio commentary.

The DVD set is nothing special probably because the series was never allowed to mature into anything really worthwhile.

“Gunmen” did have potential as a series but that doesn’t, in this case, translate into a great DVD set. X-philes will surely delight in the box set, but it is doubtful that others will find it as appealing.



Show: 2 out of 5 stars

Sound/Picture: 4 out of 5 stars

Features: 2 out of 5 stars

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