Snap reaction: Sleepy Hollow series premiere

Sleepy Hollow Premiere – Snap Reaction. Typed in real time, unedited.

Yes, the revolutionary soldier with a black mask and an ax.

Car stopped quick.

Hey, the guy from Lost. What was that character’s name? In the Hatch, Desmond killed him. Inman. Kelvin Inman?

Upside down?

Aw why’d you go and ax Inman?

Is this the guy from Flash Forward?

“When I cut off his head.” Not sure I can go for this.

Act One
Can’t help but notice the camera focused on the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill.

Orlando Jones?!?

Crane seems awfully alert and witty for a guy who just woke up after 250 years. Not at all freaked out by a car, for example. “That building used to be a livery stables.” Used to be? He’s adjusted already?

Someone else from the past, a spooky-faced priest, no less, is good.

She tells him a flashlight is like a gun, “Point. Shoot.” so he sticks his finger in front of it and points it at his face.

There is they pyramid eye again, on a gravestone.

Cool. Wizardry!

Terrible camera trick with the priest getting beheaded. What he knows the location of is a new mystery.

At this point I should mention I have no background with the headless horseman story at all. Movie or anything.

Act Two
Another camera angle riding the wheel of a police cruiser. That’s two.

Second time we’ve seen the bird.

Is this on the WB or a major broadcast network with this cop?

Mom is calling. brb

Now liveblogging the phone call.

We’re both watching TV.

Dad is hollering for something. “He must have found some kind of animal.”

“Rabbit sticks? What?”

Been to any ball games? No.

Now they’re mentioning a mouse in The Formerly Yellow Room, which is where I sleep when I’m there. They clam up.

Went to Spencer Fair. They served Minnesota State Fair cups. Say it’s becoming more of a “city people fair.” I take offense.

Making plans for cousin’s wedding.

Job hunt.

Old science teacher won a $50 gift certificate, said I can have it. He doesn’t remember what it is. Restaurant. Said there are three.

Tell them I want The Formerly Yellow Room fumigated. End of call. Back to Sleepy Hollow

Crane is digging into the cop, there’s another storyline.

She’s going to give us a little taste. Probably something about an unsolved crime, like her partner was hinting at earlier in the diner. Four white trees and a voice. Shocking. Drover her sister to “battle demons.” There’s a connection between them now. He can call her Abby.

Oh, the sheriff has some hidden files, eh?

And they’re about witches. And she’s in one with her white tree experience. Local farmer saw the same thing and guess what: Thought it was the four horseman of the apocalypse. Explains his reaction when he saw the headless horseman.

Orlando Jones seems to know more than he’s letting on.

Oh yeah, next shot confirms it. There’s another mystery.

Act Three
Ah, yes. This explanation helps a lot.

That laid out the show in a good, compelling fashion.

I wonder how much people who know and working to silence him will be part of the show. Probably a lot?

I like that “it’s on” now with what the show is about. Being vague would have been annoying. Putting it out this fast indicates to me there’s enough story that they don’t need to drag this stuff out.

Don’t have a good feeling about possibly Flash Forward guy here.

How many times are we going to shoot the man without a head.

What was that about? Did he say that because of the phone conversation he just had or because he knew what the headless horseman wants?

Best act so far.

Act Four
Wow he dug that hole fast.

The horseman is a terrible shot. Probably because he doesn’t have a head.

Whoa cop girl is bad ass!

What’s FF guy up to? Another storyline.

Is FF guy Brooks?

Orlando Jones is cooperative all of a sudden.

Yes, Brooks is.

HOLY HOLY HOLY THE WHAT? I’m not going to sleep tonight.

Great, quote Revelations.

WTF with the Rolling Stones? That totally killed the ending.

Terra Nova

FOX swung for the fences with the pilot episode of its new mega-drama, Terra Nova, reportedly doubling the $10 million ABC poured into Lost’s epic premier.  It’s too soon to tell if the show clears the fence or falls short with warning track power.

Terra Nova is a human colony in dinosaur times, set up after humans in 2149 find a one-way road back in time. The main characters are a family of five sent to the colony because it needed a doctor, which mom just happens to be. It also needed a cop, which makes it doubly fortunate that the husband escaped prison to go back in time with them.

The family dynamic is nothing special, and frankly it’s better left undiscussed.

Thus far, all but the first few segments of the series take place inside the colony’s barriers.  Even now, typing this review, I nearly typed “on the island” because there is a very island feel to Terra Nova’s setting. Recall the beginning of Lost, the island was an expansive unknown. We would later come to learn of Dharma stations, colonies and even a temple, but in the beginning all we knew was the comfortable beach and cave camps. Because of that, the writers were able to set up anything that took place outside those places to be mysterious, possibly dangerous adventures.

The colony is treated the same way. We are comfortable inside its walls with their markets and hospitals and modular homes. But outside there are dinosaurs. And Others, or “Sixers,” Terra Nova speak for the band of outlaws that lives outside the colony.

But are they really outlaws? The pilot dropped enough on us to show that there is more layers to Terra Nova’s onion. The island (honest to God, I did it again) has a commander, and that commander has a son who we learn is, well, we don’t really learn anything about him other than he has some chalk and wrote a lot of stuff on some rocks. Stuff about the real reason Terra Nova was created. Stuff we, as of yet, don’t know.

Again, this is a lot like what Lost gave us. We learned in season one there was something underground and some other people on the island, and probably there was a lot of history to be told. If Terra Nova’s creators have the same sweeping storyline in mind, we could be in for something exceptional.

Or we could be in for a dud. It’s too soon to tell. Some parts of Terra Nova aren’t up to par. The characters at times are too cliched: a teenage son angry at his father for going to prison, a saucy girl his age to tempt him away from the girl he left behind, a commander who is conveniently militaristic. You could have said the same about Lost in its early days. If Terra Nova can bring its characters and its story along well enough, it could last. If not, it will spiral downward and off our screens. Fast.

Once Upon a Time

Emma Swan does not belong in Storybrooke.

Her look is all wrong.  She wears red, deep and rich leather. Her hair falls carelessly across her shoulders. She wears a tank top. No one in Storybrooke even has a tank top. Storybrooke, Maine, has the visual style of a seaside small town. Its people are pleasant and content. Its colors are subdued in blue, green and gray. That is not Emma Swan  In the city, where she is supposed to be, she would not look the least bit out of place. But this is Storybrooke. Nothing is at it should be.

ABC took this risk before, once upon a time. In 2004 it put a show on the air unlike any viewers had seen in some years, maybe ever. Perhaps because of their proven storytelling as writers on that show, the network gave Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz the green light for a project they conceived together before joining Lost midway through its first season. For Once Upon a Time to prove itself a success, they will have to have some creative magic left in their tank.

We meet Emma doing her job as a bailbondsman, er, person. She finds people. On her 28th birthday, she is found by the son she gave up for adoption 10 years prior. Henry is one of those children Hollywood always seems to find who is sufficiently smart. He convinces Emma to bring him back to Storybrooke, where he is the adopted child of a single mother, the mayor. With dark hair and grayscale fashion, Regina Mills is the epitome of an ice queen. She’s been the mayor of Storybrooke for as long as anyone can remember, and that’s exactly how she wants it to stay.

Henry wishes otherwise. We don’t yet know exactly why or how, but Henry believes his birth mother is the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, escaped from the fairy tale at birth right before the Evil Queen’s dark curse brought ruin. He brings her to Storybrooke on her 28th birthday, the time it was foreseen when she would return to break the evil curse. Emma sees enough to want to stick around, much to the delight of Henry and the despair of Regina.

Lost’s finger prints are all over Once Upon a Time. Like Lost, Time’s story bounces between to worlds — one the placid Storybrooke and the other a fairy tale. Although, Storybrooke is more like the flash sideways in that its inhabitants don’t know that their lives are not at all what they seem. Just like the escapees from the island, they are waiting to see, even if they don’t know it yet. The black smoke the Evil Queen conjures for her curse needs no explanation. And in probably the most blatant homage yet, Emma wakes up in jail after a car wreck in a way we saw someone on the island awaken and, ultimately, go back to sleep.

Kistis and Horowitz pledge Once will be a show steeped in character rather than mythology, and that’s good. Being based on one of culture’s most famous fairy tales gives the show all the mythology it needs. If it is going to keep viewers it will need the hooks that compelling characters provide.

Once Upon a Time is a daunting challenge. A fairy tale told to a prime time television audience? In 2011? Amidst the sprawling family of crime tech from CBS and more mature offerings of FX and premium cable channels? Once has to convince viewers to suspend their perception of what is and can be real so the show can have unfettered access to their imaginations, where it must and can only survive.

I will grant it because I like fantasy stories with unbelievable fictions, and my imagination is free to anyone who knows where to find it. Once Upon a Time has shown through two episodes to feature charming acting, intriguing curiosities and something else. Something not found in the gritty alleyways of dark and mysterious dramas. Something…Storybrooke.

Flash Maybe

Like most television viewers, I first heard of ABC’s new mega-drama Flash Forward during Lost’s “The Incident” parts one and two last May.  The timing of its introduction coupled with the obvious connection between the title and one of Lost’s signature plot devices make comparisons between the two shows inevitable.

Is this fair?  Yes, I think it is.  ABC is clearly wants Lost’s fanatical fans to throw themselves into Flash Forward with equal dedication.  The fact that fan favourite Dominic Mohagan is slated to star in the series (though he was not in the pilot) should certainly help that cause.  Casting Sonia Walger as the main character’s wife will help as well.  (Does this signal that Walger’s already light duties as Penny will be even less needed in Lost’s final season?)

Even without ABC’s attempt to link the two shows, comparing Fast Forward to Lost is fair for the plain and simple fact that, over its five seasons, Lost established itself as the gold standard for intricate serial dramas (which I call mega-dramas).  To not compare the two would be like not comparing Tiger Woods to Jack Nicklaus.

But it would be unfair to judge one episode of Flash Forward against more than 100 episodes of Lost, so let’s not rush to judge Flash Forward.  Instead I’ll just note some observations without casting judgment.

What jumped out to me most about the premier of Flash Forward is that it seemed to cover an awful lot of ground awfully quickly.  Our characters learned that everyone on the planet blacked out for two minutes, seventeen seconds.  They also surmised that rather than merely dreaming, everyone had a pre-memory vision of where they would be at 10 p.m. pacific daylight time on April 29, 2010.  We even got several looks at what the show’s central characters saw.  This is obviously significant, they realize, and decide to investigate.  The final scene had two characters learning that someone was awake during the blackout in a cliffhanger that I have to admit left me with chills.

Think back to the beginning of Lost.  The pilot gave us a plane crash, a brief introduction to the central characters and a tantalizing glimpse at the mysteries that lurked in the jungle.  Then, the show spent another 23 episodes enduring us to the characters while dropping enough mystery morsels to gradually build our interest.

Flash Forward could have gone this direction, but it seems that the writers have not.  I can easily imagine a first season with episodes focused on each character’s glimpse into the future, each one weaving an ever-intricate web with the others.  Along the way we would get bits and pieces of the big mystery, closing the season with the big reveal that someone (or a lot of someones) stayed conscious through the blackout.

The fact that the Flash Forward writers crammed so much into the pilot doesn’t mean they chose to forgo the kind of in-depth character development that Lost is known for, but it does sound a potential alarm.  The pace of reveals in the pilot seemed forced, to the point that it was getting a little ridiculous.  If that keeps up, it could signal that the show won’t spend the time enticing its viewers with an emotional investment in the show, choosing to wow them with one plot twist after another instead.  Doing so would misdiagnose the reasons for Lost’s success.  Yes, it has mind-blowing plot twists, but without the painstaking – sometimes too painstaking – level of detail and devotion the show built up the fans would have long ago given up on the show.

To be successful, Flash Forward must find a way to give its viewers more than just a mysterious plot.  Last year’s Lost season finale had us all hoping against hope that Sawyer would hold on to Juliet in the mineshaft because we love Sawyer and wanted to see him happy.  The fact that I can’t recall a single character’s name from Flash Forward’s premier episode means the show has work to do before building the loyal followers ABC wants to keep tuned to the network when Lost ends.