MGM's star TV series

"Stargate SG-1" attracts 3.3 million viewers per episode, and producers estimate almost that many more watch the reruns in syndication on weekend afternoons. 

The series has sold more than 30 million DVDs internationally, and MGM says it is second only to its cache of James Bond films. 

The show plays in more than 120 countries and churns out tons of merchandise, such as comic books, board games and novels. 

The producers of the show say that "Stargate SG-1" and her little sister series, "Stargate: Atlantis," have generated more than $500 million U.S. for the British Columbia economy. It costs MGM $75 million a year to make both shows. 

The Sci Fi Channel nabbed the rights to the series from Showtime in 2002. 


TUNING IN 

"Stargate SG-1" opens its 10th season at 8 p.m. Friday on the Sci Fi Channel.

The series now lays claim as the longest-running sci-fi drama in the history of U.S. television. The cast features Tennessean Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping (as Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (Teal'c), Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson) and Beau Bridges (Hank Landry). Joining the show as a regular this season will be Claudia Black, who appeared last season as the brilliant, seductive and morally ambiguous Vala Mal Doran. 

In this season's debut episode, "Flesh and Blood," after a losing battle with the Ori motherships, the team must save Carter, who is stranded in space and running out of life support; Vala gives birth to the Orici, a genetically superior human who will lead Ori armies against all unbelievers; and Teal'c has been captured and faces torture by the Lucian Alliance.

 

Tennessee-born Ben Browder has one of TV's coolest gigs as Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell on "Stargate SG-1," which returns for season No. 10 Friday night on the Sci Fi Channel. Browder gained international fame in his previous Sci Fi Channel series "Farscape."

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The "Stargate SG-1" crew includes, clockwise from left, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Ben Browder and Claudia Black.

Tennessee native sticks in 'Stargate'

Browder returns for his second season, show's 10th

By KEN BECK
Staff Writer

You can take the boy out of Tennessee — even to other worlds — but you can't take Tennessee out of the boy.

One of the hottest stars in the science-fiction television world is one Ben Browder, born in Memphis and raised in Knoxville until beginning his school days in Charlotte, N.C.

He may not be a household name, but to sci-fi TV buffs, and you know who you are, Browder rules the universe. The 43-year-old is back for his sophomore year as Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell on ''Stargate SG-1.'' The series, which has more staying power than ''X-Files'' or any ''Star Trek'' stepchild, blasts off into its 10th season at 8 p.m. Friday on the Sci Fi Channel.

''He is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force in charge of Stargate-1. Quite frankly, it is a legendary team. It's sort of an unusual situation to be in,'' said Browder of himself as well as his Cameron Mitchell character. ''He's still a work in progress. What he is today is not what he was a year and a half ago. He's much more settled than when he first arrived.''

Browder's Mitchell is a gifted pilot who risked his life to help SG-1 save Earth. Before that Browder played outer-space hero John Crichton on ''Farscape.'' That gig from 1999 to 2004 got him three Saturn Awards for best actor. (Saturn Awards are given annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films to honor the top works in science fiction, fantasy and horror in film, television and home video.)

As for season 10 of ''SG-1,'' he says, ''We'll be seeing new ships and more of the new enemy, the Ori.''

For non–sci-fi buffs, ''SG-1'' is a worldwide phenomenon, airing in more than 120 countries and raking in millions of viewers as well as millions of dollars in merchandising.

What are the ingredients that make ''SG-1'' so incredibly popular?

''I think that the basic premise is a good one: You have a gate that takes you anywhere else in the universe, and you walk there,'' said Browder.

''I think the show is well-done. It's not so art-driven that it's impossible for people to come into the show after eight seasons. People can come into season nine and enjoy it. They do a good job keeping the show episodic in nature. The cast? They're great. They have a good group of people working on the show.''

Browder joined the series last year, sort of taking over the boss man role previously filled by Richard Dean Anderson of ''MacGyver'' fame. He and his castmates are in the midst of shooting 20 episodes in Vancouver, which will keep them busy through October.

Before his rise to fame in TV shows filled with aliens and extraterrestrials, Browder's face could be spotted on film and TV. He played Neve Campbell's boyfriend, Sam Brody, on ''Party of Five,'' was in the TV movie ''Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story,'' and portrayed Lee Majors in ''Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Charlie's Angels.' ''

His feature films include ''Memphis Belle,'' ''Nevada'' and ''A Kiss Before Dying,'' and he worked on Broadway with Dustin Hoffman in ''The Merchant of Venice.'' Not too shabby for a boy who spent his summers at his grandparents' West Tennessee farm in McNairy County, the stomping grounds of the late ''Walking Tall'' sheriff Buford Pusser.

''We headed over the hill (the Smoky Mountains) when I was 5 or 6 but were always going back to West Tennessee for a lot of summers and holidays,'' said Browder, whose first paid gig came around age 6 when he made a Wheaties commercial with Bill Cosby.

''For some reason, they were shooting in Charlotte. I had a neighborhood mom who was a talent scout/agent. They picked me out of a lineup of kids who could eat cereal,'' Browder said with bemusement.

He played three sports in high school and wound up going to Furman University to play linebacker on the football team.

''When we lived in Knoxville, we used to go to UT games. I still watch them. If I have to root for somebody not Furman, it has to be Tennessee, or I'll be rooting for Vanderbilt. Bobby Johnson (Commodore head coach) was defensive coordinator all four years I played at Furman. He's a good guy,'' said the athletic Browder.

After graduating with a degree in psychology, he decided acting was the way to go.

''I left school doing regional theater, trying to scrape together bits and pieces. I discovered I needed to be in New York or Los Angeles, so I kind of went the long way around and went to London and drama school for three years. By then, I had an English agent, and my resume looked a little different,'' Browder said.

Through pure coincidence, the Memphis-born actor's first feature role was in ''Memphis Belle'' (1990).

''I was cast out of the UK in London. Basically I had a small part, three or four scenes. It wound up being one but it was an interesting first job. I spent three weeks on an Air Force base waiting to shoot scenes and in between we played cards (with Matthew Modine and Sean Astin, among others).''

In 1995, he got a part in a Dottie West TV biographical film, which meant an airplane flight to Nashville.

''The most memorable thing was sitting next to Dolly Parton on the plane on the way over. There I was. I told her what I was doing, and she had firsthand information about Dottie.''

That was a short trip compared to his star-making gig as John Crichton. He auditioned in Los Angeles at the Jim Henson Productions offices, and then it was across the Pacific to Australia, where ''Farscape'' was filmed.

''I have to say I felt very much at home in Australia. The country is beautiful and not so overcrowded,'' said Browder, who misses time in Tennessee. His parents now live in Johnson City, and he has two younger brothers who drive late model stock cars for sport.

Married to actress Francesca Buller, the Browders have two children . . . and little time for hobbies.

''When I'm not working, I'm being a dad and husband. I still surf,'' said the sci-fi guy who surfs other worlds once he walks through the Stargate.
 

 


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