The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: The Tomorrow People (The CW/E4)

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4 to air in 2014

Three episodes into The CW’s The Tomorrow People – a blander but still mightily improved version of ITV’s 1970s sci-fi kids show – and we’ve just had our first genuinely decent episode.

Now, all things are relative, of course. The first episode, which saw the teleporting, telekinetic, telepathic next step in human evolution get given the American ‘family’ treatment, was a decent cross between the original show, Smallville and Arrow, with thankfully no aliens, robots or anything that would ping Operation Yewtree’s radar. It suffered the usual flaws of such shows, with minimal attempts to give anyone except the two central white male characters much to do and a reliance on CGI and efficient but hollow martial arts scenes, but it was decently done for what it was.

Episode two was… episode one again. Same plot, pretty much the same conclusion, just with a smaller budget. 

But episode three was a much improved affair, developing the show in new directions, giving the female TP a combination of the interesting (pre-break out deafness) and the boringly typical (someone tried to rape her) for a backstory. We also got some of the show’s almost unique traits: a willingness to discuss human evolution and how it works, with signs that the TP’s powers are variable in quality, not entirely perfect and vulnerable to other factors. It’s a near-original touch for a show that could simply have been Mutant X all over again. 

Yet, it’s still not a strong sell. John, Stephen and Jedikiah are just not that interesting as characters, none of the cast apart from Mark Pellegrino has an ounce of charisma, the action is only above average, and there’s nothing truly compelling about the story that sets it out from any other shows in which a group of goodies have to escape baddies in black suits.

And, it has to be said, compared to the original’s title sequence, the new title sequence is just a bit limp (despite the head nod here and there):

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Unless it does something to lift itself out of ordinary – please not aliens though – it’s going to be dead by the end of its first season


Review: The Tomorrow People 1×1 (US: The CW; UK: E4)

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4

As we all know, US TV is prone to remaking other countries’ TV shows, but if you’d asked me a year what the most likely remake of a UK TV show would be this season, never in my wildest dreams would I have suggested 1970s sci-fi gay metaphor and excuse for borderline S&M paedophilia The Tomorrow People. Yet here it is. Do they have no shame?

Amazingly, although I tend to prefer remakes that are faithful to the original, in this case, the lack of fidelity is an improvement. The original show was dreadful. Just dreadful. Although possessed of one of the best and most disturbing title sequences in TV history, it had numerous faults, most of which I’ve spelt out over here. Or you could watch this brief clip, which should show you what you’ve been missing all these years.

Yet here, although we don’t have something that’s much above “not bad”, we don’t have something outrageously terrible. What we do have is, however, is also a bit more mundane. Following on from the original, the story posits that all over the world, a new race of human beings called Homo Superior or The Tomorrow People is ‘comingbreaking out’. Able to teleport, read minds and move objects with their thoughts, unlike the nasty new humans of Prey, these genetic mutations can’t kill and just want to be left alone to lead normal lives like anyone else.

Unlike the 1970s Tomorrow People, there are some complete TP spanners ruining for it everyone by breaking into bank vaults and the like, so a government scientist called Jedekiah who definitely isn’t a fierce, shapechanging, alien robot is out to stop these new Tomorrow People and give them genetic therapy to make them normal ‘saps’ (Home Sapiens) – assuming he can’t get them to join his team of black-suited TPs.

With new and super-powerful mutation Stephen (Robbie Amell – cousin of Arrow‘s Stephen Amell) just breaking out and teleporting into people’s bedrooms while he’s asleep, both sides in the war are looking to recruit. Which side will he join? Well, that would be telling, so maybe you’ll just have to read my mind to find out. Or watch it.

Here’s a trailer. Spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading “Review: The Tomorrow People 1×1 (US: The CW; UK: E4)”

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: Agents of SHIELD (ABC/Channel 4)

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Fridays, 8pm, Channel 4

Three episodes into Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and it looks like the show is finally finding its feet as a show separate from The Avengers/Avengers Assemble and the rest of the ‘Marvel Universe’. Episode one was a derivative affair, no different from Knight Rider and NCIS in set-up but with even prettier casts and Whedongags and constant references to the movies to differentiate it from other ensemble action shows that deal with the hunting down of ‘terrorists’. 

With Joss Whedon apparently absent behind the scenes of episode two, taking his jokes with him (although rumours are they he did do some re-writes on it), the show made an unfortunate shift sideways in the direction of Torchwood, giving us a rubbish, bickering team, trying to save the world from alien artefacts, while making yet more references to the movies. And we just don’t need another Torchwood – one was enough.

Episode three was considerably more pleasing, though, giving us some juicy flips of a standard plot, some actual personalities for the prettier members of the cast and a guest appearance by an accent-laden Ian Hart. While still not quite up to Whedon-standard, there were better gags than before and the laying down of some new mythology for the show so it doesn’t have to keep drawing on the Marvel movie universe. It did have some weird ideas about Malta, though, and some pretty poor fight scenes, so let’s not get too carried away.

Agents of SHIELD is clearly a show finding its way. It’s not trying to be as clever or off the wall as previous Whedon efforts, and while its playing with the tropes of mainstream action and comic-book shows gives a certain edge on the po-faced likes of Criminal Minds and NCIS, it doesn’t yet have good enough writing or a good enough cast for it to quite get by without the goodwill brought about by the movies.

But it’s got enough good things about it and enough strengths that given time, it will be a decent enough show and could possibly grow into something innovative. We can at least keep our fingers crossed.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will last at least one season, but needs to find its own place in the Marvel and TV-viewing universes for it to go beyond that.

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Living

We’re now three episodes into The Blacklist, NBC’s White Castle version of Hannibal‘s fine dining experience, in which master criminal James Spader turns himself in and agrees to help the US government find other master criminals, provided he gets to work with an FBI novice (Megan Boone) for no well defined reason.

And after a pretty good start, the show has continued to stay more or less exactly the same. Since the first episode, we’ve had a few new arrivals in the cast, although only CIA agent Parminder Nagra (ER, Bend It Like Beckham) ever gets anything to do – or say – and doesn’t have any especially well identified personality traits beyond her plot function. But then neither do most of the main cast, since this is all about Spader.

Indeed, Spader is there as before, mildly hamming around the place, running rings around the FBi with some devious scheme that isn’t yet clear. Boone continues to exhibit all the charisma and inner strength of candy floss, while trying to work out if her husband is some kind of secret agent or master criminal sent to spy on her. The baddies of the week are mildly interesting, more for their casting (Chin Han and (spoiler alert) Isabella Rossellini) than because there’s that much to them as characters, although they generally represent some form of popular evil whose taking down by the forces of law and order we can only applaud. There’s also some reasonably good fight scenes and stunts to enjoy each episode.

This is fun, escapist entertainment. It makes almost no sense. But it hits all the right buttons, Spader’s great, and there’s a real sense of intrigue trying to work out what Spader is really up to. It’s not I, Claudius in the scheme of things, but it’s one of the top shows of the Fall season so far and there are worse ways to spend an hour.

Barrometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Providing it doesn’t hold off giving away its secrets for too long, this one could run and run.