It’s that time of the year again!
The current TV season is coming to a close and as the shows we know and love wrap it up for another year, some of them never to be seen again, a jostling crop of hopefuls is waiting in the wings ready to take their place.
The shows were revealed recently during what is known as the “Upfronts” where all five of the networks reveal all their new shows, and programming schedules for the new season, to advertisers and the media.
This post it’s time to turn our attention to five of the dramas that I think have enough appeal to be worth your time checking out when they premiere.
So grab your favourite TV snacks, prepare to dig your nails deep into your lounge chairs as dramatic tension seizes you and enjoy five very promising dramas coming your way this fall …
Sleepy Hollow sees the familiar Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) living in a modern-day Sleepy Hollow, where he teams up with a female sheriff (Abbie Mills) to not only solve the strange and supernatural happenings taking place in town, but also to unravel each mystery’s connection to the larger battle between good and evil. (source: screenrant.com)
Washington Irving, the man who penned the unnervingly creepy tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820, may not be taking a gigantic leap into the 21st century, but his protagonist Ichabod Crane certainly is.
Awoken from the throes of death 250 years away from the time he knows, where he is a revered soldier and confidante of the first President of the United States, George Washington, Crane (Tom Mison), by supernatural forces far beyond his understanding, Ichabod Crane is a man out of time and place.
But, as it turns out, a man with just the right information at the just the right time.
When the Headless Horseman (Richard Cetrone), Ichabod Crane’s old nemesis, is summoned from his resting place by an evil determined to prevail in an eons-old battle being waged with the forces who roused Crane from his eternal slumber, and resumes his murderous rampage across Sleepy Hollow, it is only Washington’s trusted old friend, in partnership with a simultaenously bemused and horrified local sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), who stands any chance of stopping him.
And if he fails, the stakes are far higher than just a few bodies here and there.
Because as it turns out, the Headless Horseman is, yes, the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, one of the powerful figures mentioned in the The Book of Revelation as a harbinger of the end times, herald of the end of the world.
Which makes Crane all the more important and raises the stakes in Sleepy Hollow considerably.
*Carrying much of the chemistry that made such a success of True Believer/Sceptic partnerships such as Mulder and Scully (X-Files) and Bishop and Dunham (Fringe), the pairing of Crane and Mills looks set to give Sleepy Hollow, a show which gives Crane the epilogue he never received in Irving’s story, a real spark and energy.
Promising too is the fact that there is a rich arc already in place, giving the series plenty of places to go narrative-wise, and building the stakes ever higher as it goes on.
Following in the vein of many of this year’s shows, which feature a supernatural, fantasy or sci-fi bent, Sleepy Hollow looks to have the storytelling legs, if not the head, to go far.
I am awaiting this one eagerly.
Fresh from his role in the summer’s box office smash, Marvel’s The Avengers, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns to the worldwide law enforcement organization S.H.I.E.L.D. He puts together a small, highly trained, team of agents to tackle the cases that haven’t been classified yet, the new, the strange and the unknown. That team consists of straight arrow Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), an expert in combat and espionage; pilot and martial artist Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen); and brilliant if socially awkward scientists Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). They’ll be joined by civilian new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet).
Prepare for an epic adventure that showcases the hope and wonder of the human spirit. This is a world of Super Heroes, aliens and the unusual – of action, spectacle and world spanning stories. The show will speak to the human condition through the lens of our very human, non-powered S.H.I.E.L.D agents – that together we are greater than we are apart, and that we can make a difference in the world. (source: screenrant.com)
So it turns out that Agent Phillip Coulson is not dead.
Not even remotely despite the rather final ending meted out to him in Marvel’s cinematic blockbuster, The Avengers.
Roused from the dead (there seems to be a lot of that going on lately – see Sleepy Hollow above) he is tasked with overseeing a group of top secret agents to explore “the new, the strange and the unknown”, a task that carries on with or without legions of well known branded superheroes.
Not everyone is convinced it is their fight, but Coulson has a way of convincing them to come along for the ride as the trailer shows.
Giving the wide-ranging scope of phenomena that falls within their remit, it is likely they are going to be very busy young guys and girls, all it must be said, under the unrelenting glare of a world who is very much aware of what they do, after the events in New York that formed the climactic scene of The Avengers.
*It’s a clever concept.
Rather than see the perils facing humanity as a one-off, dealt with cleanly and evenly by a crack team of superheroes assembled for just such a purpose, posit them as an ongoing threat that must be dealt with week by week, with no doubt an emerging grand arc linking them all together in some way.
It neatly answers the question of what happens after the big superhero battles when evil isn’t ever completely vanquished but simply slinks off to the shadows and nooks and crannies, to lick its wounds and bide its time.
The battle between good and evil is a day to day proposition, almost a 9-to-5 idea, that must be dealt with by people who understand that it’s not about the glory but simply getting the job done.
And along the story experiencing the sorts of things modern sceptical man dismisses as fanciful, the stuff of dreams and conspiracy theorists.
Properly executed this could be a worthy successor to Fringe, presuming of course they’re willing to go into the sort of dark and unusual places that show went to.
If anyone can make it fly (pun intended) then it is Joss Whedon, an imaginative man who understands better than most than shades of grey do an engrossing drama, every a superhero-ish one, make.
Almost Human is set 35 years into the future when humans in the Los Angeles Police Department are paired up with life-like androids, as a detective who has a dislike for robots ends up being teamed up with one with emotional feelings.
Harkening back to the themes in the movie I, Robot, where the unceasing march of technology found its match in the intransigence of one man played by Will Smith to accept the basic premise that all progress is good progress, Almost Human finds recently returned to the force after a two year absence cop, John Kennex (Karl Urban), fighting being partnered with superseded android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy).
This is, of course, after his first “Synthetic” partner – a pejorative term that his wholly logical, remorselessly unemotional stridently objects to, is mysteriously crushed under the wheels of oncoming traffic while he and John are out on assignment.
With no brand, spanking new MX models to assign to him, John is paired with an older model DRN android that were intended to be as human as possible.
This is of course meant they did react quite as logically as their successors, leading them to be dubbed, in John’s words, as “the crazy ones”.
Crazy or not, it’s all the department has to give him, and the two disparate individuals are forced to work together on the mother of all learning curves.
*One of two major dramas launching from J. J. Abrams sprawling entertainment powerhouse, Bad Robot, Almost Human has a lot going for it.
It has re-invented the old The Odd Couple idea, celebrated in franchises like Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour, with a twist that speaks to the fear that technology is marching forward so fast that many of us aren’t able to keep up.
In this case, it’s technology in the form of a living, walking-and-talking synthetic human that can’t be ignored even though the human half of the couple gives it his best shot.
No doubt the two will bond (the trailer seems to indicate that happens reasonably quickly) since constant bickering would not an endearing team make, but I hope they retain at least an element of the discomfort and unease so the central premise isn’t left behind entirely as the series progresses.
Karl Urban looks to have the world-weary cynical cop routine sewn up delightfully tight, bringing a sardonic wit to the one liners (much as he did as “Bones” McCoy in Abrams’ Star Trek reboots) and Michael Ealy brings just the right touch of authentic emerging humanity to a character that we must be willing to root for.
It’s a refreshingly original take on the idea of mismatched buddies and looks like it could well go the distance.
The Blacklist follows Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, as he joins with the FBI, claiming that they can work with one another. When he agrees to cooperate in bringing down dangerous criminals and terrorists, he tells them that he will only speak with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a rookie FBI profiler.
As they work together, Keen questions Reddington’s motives and Reddington simply feels she is very special. When one terrorist is taken down, Reddington informs them that it is only the beginning. Reddington gives the FBI access to “The Blacklist”, a list with known terrorists and criminals the world doesn’t know about. With Reddington’s help, they work together to eradicate the list. (source: tvrage.com)
I love a battle of the minds!
And who better to launch one than the master of the witty retort, and coldly calculated yet somehow winning look, James Spader, who takes to the role of top ten FBI fugitive Raymond “Red” Reddington with the requisite gusto.
He has the intelligence, the insight and the devilish charm to make mincemeat of whoever he comes up against, which in this case looks like it might be Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a newbie with no prior links to the man who calmly walks into FBI HQ, announces his presence and then kneels, hands on head, waiting for the inevitable all-guns-loaded response.
Quite why he chooses Elizabeth isn’t clear, but what becomes readily apparent is that she is going to have use every ounce of the talents that got the FBI profiler role to go head to head and toe with toe with Reddington, who has a long list of potential suspects for them to jointly hunt down and do away with one way or another.
*Cleverly linking together a police procedural case-of-the-week idea with what is likely to be a long running arc – the “blacklist” is apparently mighty long and there are all sorts of questions about who’s on it, and why, and ultimately whether anything the devious, cunning Reddington says can be trusted – The Blacklist looks to tick all the boxes for a show of this genre.
It has intrigue in spades, the promise of unknown and potentially lethal bad guys who may or may not be as bad as Reddington makes out – after all, again, he is not the most trustworthy of people to deal with is he? – and a great big glowing question mark over it about what is motivating Reddington (save for the most narcissism and desire for control where he no longer has any).
My main concern is that it doesn’t simply devolve into a case-of-the-week show alone since while Spader’s acting is formidable, and Keen looks to have the acting chops to, if not match him, at least keep up with him, not even great acting talents can sustain a show that falls into predictable formulaic storytelling.
If they can keep the arc in place and embed the cases into it, which looks to be what they’re aiming for, this has every real possibility of keeping me hooked to the edge of my seat.
Levitation, telekinesis, the ability to control nature, even predict the future… since she was two years old, Bo has had gifts she could neither fully understand nor control. Raised by a small group known as the “True Believers,” the orphaned girl has been safeguarded from harmful outsiders who would use her forces for personal gain. But now that she is 10, her powers have become stronger, and the threat has grown more dangerous.
With her life and future now in jeopardy, the “Believers” turn to the only person they see fit to be her full-time protector. That is, once they break him out of jail. Tate, a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate who’s lost his will, is initially reluctant – until he witnesses one of her extraordinary abilities. Bo sees people for who they truly are… and who they may become.
Tate and Bo begin their journey, one in which trust must be earned. Traveling from city to city, every place they stop and everyone they meet will be changed forever. But they’ll have to keep going to stay one step ahead of the sinister forces after Bo’s power… because it will take a miracle to keep them safe forever. (source: slashfilm.com)
The second of bad Robot’s offerings for the new television year, Believe comes with the added narrative clout of Alfonso Cuarón, a man who has proven time and time again that he has the imagination to elevate a reasonably straight down the line concept to something extraordinary and special.
Centering on a young orphaned girl Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) with unique powers, and real family to speak of other than the mysterious “True Believers” who have committed themselves to safeguarding her come what may.
To that end they choose the most unlikely of protectors, a wrongly-indicted prisoner Tate (Jake McLaughlin) who admits he doesn’t even like kids.
Mystified why he would be given this role, and reluctant to take it initially even if it means he is able to escape incarceration, he changes his mind as he witnesses the sort of power Bo can yield and why she must be protected from those who do her harm in pursuit of harnessing her considerable abilities.
*While I am always a little bit wary of the Cute Kid Factor (CKF), which can take a worthy promising concept and reduce it to maudlin pulp in the time it takes to hysterically cry “Justin (Bieber) I love you!”, Believe looks like it will rise up above that.
For one thing Johnny Sequoyah is a cut above your usual child actor, bringing a burning gravitas to the role of Bo that will be needed if we are to buy her in the child-become-a-sage role she is clearly intended to occupy.
Balancing a childlike vulnerability with a fierce force of will, Johnny Sequoyah is going to need to keep them perfectly aligned to keep us believing in her.
And Jake McLaughlin will need to thaw reasonably quickly lest he come across as a tad too curmudgeonly to be likeable.
The trailer doesn’t give us a lot to go on immediately but it does appear as if both actors are more than capable of bringing their roles to life, and invigorating the sort of town-to-town week-t0-week adventures reminiscent of 70s and 80s Tv shows.
The fact that it is also has a considerable, intricate backstory, and an oblique overarching arc will go a long way to ensure that all these separate adventures will neatly slot into an exciting, and intriguing whole.
I think I do Believe … now it’s up to the show’s producers to keep me a true believer.
*Which show most excites you? Which one/s do you think I have misread entirely?