Monday, December 29, 2014

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Hacker

A hacker is a person, female or male, who is studied in the using -- sometimes illicit -- of a computer. 

A hacker is not only a programmer, but one who uses those considerable skills to gain access to secure computer networks.

The hacker has been a staple of pop-culture and genre television since the 1980s. 

In 1983, the CBS series Whiz Kids (1983 -1984) concerned high-school students who were, essentially, hackers, and used their computer knowledge to solve mysteries, or bring criminals to justice. The lead hacker was Richie Adler (Matthew Laborteaux), who used his father’s computer equipment and re-assembled it into “Ralf,” his specialized system.

An episode of V: The Series (1985) also concerned a hacker.  In “War of Illusions,” a young man and arcade game player was able to hack the Visitor mothership in Los Angeles, and learn of the Leader’s secret battle plans, which were to be executed by computer.  Diana captured the hacker’s father (Conrad Janis), believing he was the hacker, rather than the teenage boy. The hacker enlisted the Resistance, including Mike Donovan and Kyle Bates, to get his father back, and scramble the computer battle plans.

On The X-Files (1993 – 2003), the Lone Gunmen trio consists of two hackers who are very competitive with one another, Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) and Richard Langly (Dean Haglund). Each one thinks that he is the better programmer/hacker.

“Eyes Only” -- Logan Cale -- in Dark Angel (2000 – 2002) is also a hacker, one who creates exposes and streams them to the people of Seattle in the dystopian future world of Seattle.

In superhero series, in fact, the hacker has become a crucial member of the crime-solving team. Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) on Smallville (2001 – 2011) graduates from news reporter at The Torch to hacker and computer programmer in Metropolis, known as “Watch Tower.”

And on Arrow, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is the IT expert at Oliver Queen’s company in Starling City, but she soon becomes a hacker, working for The Archer (Queen) and helping him right the wrongs of the city.

Many, many TV series have included hackers. On Millennium (1996 – 1999), the Millennium Group’s IT guy, Roedecker (Allan Zinyk) was a recurring character in the second season, and was of special help to Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) in the episode “The Mikado,” which involved a killer murdering people online, at a dedicated web site.

And Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) greatest resource  -- in the field and in CTU – is Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), on 24 (2001 – 2008).

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