Alfonso Cuaron, you’ve just won the Oscar for directing ‘Gravity’. What will you do next? “I’m going to direct a mediocre and derivative TV pilot for a fourth-place broadcast network!”* Sigh.
[*Not an actual quote.]
In recent weeks, NBC has hyped the hell out of its mid-season drama series ‘Believe’, primarily for the involvement of Oscar-winner Cuaron (who is credit as Co-Creator and directed the premiere episode) and Executive Producer J.J. Abrams (who probably, like most of the series he puts his name to, had little to nothing to do with the production).
The show concerns the adventures of a little orphan girl named Bo (Johnny Sequoyah – and yes, despite the name, she’s a girl). Bo has magical super powers. Which super powers? All of them, apparently. She can read minds, see the future, move things around telekinetically, and even control flocks of birds by screaming really loudly. Basically, whatever predicament a given scene puts her in, she can conjure up an appropriate power to get out of it. How convenient.
Bo is also so annoyingly precocious that you just want to toss her off a cliff… Oh, don’t worry, she’d probably just levitate herself to safety.
The ‘Pilot’ episode opens with one of Cuaron’s famous long, elaborate tracking shots, as a car driven by Bo’s new foster parents is run off the road by a sexy, neck-snapping assassin chick (Sienna Guillory, who was so scrumptious in the second ‘Resident Evil’ movie). Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your perspective – Bo is rescued by the arrival of helpful bystanders who call the police and an ambulance. From the accident scene, she’s transported to a hospital where said assassin chick, under orders from wealthy villain Kyle MacLachlan, tries to snatch her again.
Meanwhile, a secret group led by a very friendly guy named Winter (Delroy Lindo) breaks the sensitive, shaggy-haired and puppy-dog-eyed Death Row inmate Tate (Jake McLaughlin from that crappy Starz Network spin-off of ‘Crash’ – where he played a character called Bo) out of prison. Tate insists that he’s innocent, and I suppose we’re meant to take that for granted. He seems nice enough. Winter recruits Tate, somewhat against his will, to rescue Bo, protect her, and be her new foster daddy. He doesn’t seem overly concerned about leaving this incredibly important child in the hands of a convicted murderer. Even if it’s true that Tate is innocent, spending years on Death Row couldn’t have done much for his temperament.
Plot twist! The episode ends with the totally unsurprising reveal that Tate is actually Bo’s real daddy, but neither of them knows it yet. Oh, OK, I guess that makes everything all right.
Most of the episode is structured as a repetitive chase. Tate fights the assassin girl, runs away with Bo, fights the assassin girl, runs away with Bo, etc. Along the way, Bo insists on making a pit-stop to help a nice young doctor to resolve his daddy issues by reading his comatose father’s mind in order to assure the doctor that his dad is proud of him. The doctor storyline has nothing to do with the main plot, but sets up what will be the structure of the series going forward. On the run from the baddies, Tate and Bo will travel from town-to-town, helping random people who need assistance only Bo can provide. You know, like the Incredible Hulk.
The premiere episode is very hectic and chaotic and choppily edited. The characters aren’t very appealing. It plays like an uncomfortable mash-up of Cuaron’s aesthetic sensibilities with Abrams’ penchant for clichéd sci-fi tropes and half-thought-out ideas that will inevitably lead nowhere.
This whole series could be based on an unused script for ‘Fringe’. How many episodes will it take before we learn that Bo got her powers by being dosed with Cortexiphan? If not that show, it could just as easily have sprung from castoff storylines from ‘The X-Files’, or ‘Heroes’, or ‘Alphas’, or ‘Touch’, or… well, you get the idea.
Beyond this episode, I don’t expect that either Cuaron or Abrams will have much to do with the show. Me neither.
Sorry, NBC. You haven’t made a believer out of me yet, and I don’t think you’re going to.