Let me start off this post with a caveat that should be obvious — SPOILER ALERT. All six of the premieres I’m reviewing are for new shows, so there’s virtually no way that I could review them without revealing a fair amount of detail, including backstory. The short version is that I’m passing on Hand of God and Public Morals, considering Heroes: Reborn and Minority Report, and going all in on wherever Supergirl and Blindspot want to take me. Beyond that, read at your own risk.
I’ll start with Hand of God, starring Ron Perlman and Dana Delany. Here’s the premise — Perlman plays a judge who is known as a bit of a hardass with criminals, and who is involved in some shady land deals with a friend. His daughter-in-law was raped, his son was forced to watch, his son then tried to commit suicide and is now in a coma. Perlman seems to be losing it — the show opens with him in a fountain in public, praying to a sun god or something, acting looney-tunes (which isn’t very becoming for a prominent judge), and oh yeah, he’s also naked. He goes to see his son in the hospital and his son, or presumably God through his son, tells him to “get” the guy who raped the daughter-in-law. Perlman thinks he’s losing it, add in some ballyhoo with a possible scamming preacher, and the religion stuff is a bit messy.
Nevertheless, there is the undertone of violence all through it. Perlman physically forces the daughter-in-law — yes, I said forces — to look at a possible rapist to identify him, including having him show his penis to her through a viewing wall. Feels like the Judge is raping her again. Fortunately, even though she says she doesn’t know if it’s him, the Judge KNOWS, so has an inmate kill him, revealing the guy (a cop, btw) DID in fact do the rape, but it was because “they” told him he had to, and cue the requisite conspiracy plot…dun, dun, dun. I liked the shows Saving Grace and Eli Stone, so the religion doesn’t bother me. Equally, I’m okay with conspiracy plots. Plus violence generally, as long as it isn’t purposefully gratuitously graphic. But this show was just plain slow and boring. Amazon may end up with a hit on its hands, but I won’t be watching. Pass.
Public Morals is a new offering from TNT, and stars creator Edward Burns, Michael Rapaport, etc. The acting is a bit clichéd, but it is set in 1960s cop-ville, where the cops are all on-the-take but only to keep life running smooth and keep the chaos to a minimum. A public service, if you will. The first episode lines everything up — one of the cops has an uncle who is a minor league crime boss, another cop has just joined the unit but might be too straight an arrow to play ball, a criminal friend and perpetual screw-up from the old days wants to run a gambling business and wants permission to start up, etc. Add in some home life drama — meetings with principals, domestic abuse, possible adultery, etc. — and you have lots of little irons in the fire leading up to the minor crime boss getting whacked, with help from friends to drive the getaway car. The problem is that I just don’t care what happens to any of them. None of their stories make me want to know how it all turns out. Absolutely none of them. Pass.
Heroes: Reborn on NBC is pretty much what the title says — a reboot of the popular series from a few years ago (2006???? Really???? wow!) where X-men err I mean Mutant X err I mean “Evos” (Evolved Human Beings) have started to display powers. When the first season of Heroes launched, the main mantra of “Save the cheerleader, save the world” was compelling. A great counterpart to the weirdness of Lost and the myriad of copycats that went nowhere. Season 1 was awesome. Season 2 was uneven. Season 3 and 4 were unfocused, dark and well, incomprehensible at times. It just never matched the magic of Season 1. The new series has launched in a very odd yet strangely compelling fashion. [For my review of the so-called “pilot”, I totally screwed up. It is NOT the actual pilot, it is a series of webisodes done as a prequel to the pilot.]
The premise of the pre-pilot is a new Evo, a young girl who discovers she can control light and darkness — and maybe more. Her brother starts documenting anything and everything related to her powers, a la Claire Bennett’s first video documenting her regeneration powers — “This is attempt #1”. Fast-forward a few years, politics has gotten weird around Evos, and a summit on Evo rights ends up a terrorist-destroyed wasteland. Was it her? Was she involved? Her brother hunts down the old head of Primatech, Noah Bennet, to find the answers. Cue credits. So here’s my issue…I like the premise. Not sure what they will / can do that Mutant X and X-Men haven’t covered in spades before, but a different feel helps. Yet I signed on before, and by Season 3, I was skipping episodes and watching summaries occasionally. I don’t know if they can bring back that original Save the Cheerleader feel, even with some of the old Heroes swinging by for a visit. I’m in, as long as it keeps the storyline compelling.
Minority Report is also a reboot of sorts. The movie starred Tom Cruise as a cop who works in the Pre-Crime Unit — a unit that has three pre-cognitive people who are linked together through cyber/cerebral connections who can “see” crime before it happens. Together, the three of them could get a name, time, address, pictures, etc. They could see lots of crime but the big crime was murder — which would come down to the Pre-Crime Unit as a “red ball” down a chute. Kind of like a ball for a bingo game. Then the cops would go and arrest the murderer before the murder could happen. The big reveal in the movie was the minority report — explained very simply in the TV series, it was that all three pre-cogs didn’t see the future the same way all the times. There was an element of chance. But the PCU brass didn’t tell the public that sometimes the 3 didn’t agree and the one who didn’t would file “a minority report” (the term for judicial panels where one dissents). In the movie, there’s a minority report filed for a murder but no one knows it exists, that perhaps a murder WOULDN’T have happened without intervention, and that someone is manipulating the system. Big scandal results at the end.
The movie picks up 15 years later, PCU has been disbanded, nothing more than a history topic. But the pre-cogs survived, hiding out far from civilization. Dash, Arthur and Agatha were living in seclusion to protect them from having to see crimes and from being exploited. Except Arthur was kidnapped and Dash is looking for him. He is in the big city again, and he is still seeing pictures of the crimes. Disjointed, no names or addresses. Just images that he has been trying to figure out so he can stop a crime. Except he always arrives too late. Until he meets a cop, she finds out his secret, and the two of them team up to stop one. Secretly, since of course pre-cogs are forbidden assets. Stark Sands plays Dash, and he is quite good. I didn’t however feel like Meagan Good as the cop, Lara Vega, really had the character nailed down. It was only one EP, maybe she’ll grow into it, but it was a little soft. I almost felt though that the producers had watched Person of Interest and said, “Give me a softer version of Carter.” Even her hair-styling looks the same. I think the show is okay, and likely of interest to the same audience as PoI which has been kind of lame of late. It might be enough to hold on, but unless they up the ante pretty quick, I’m not convinced the show will be around for the long haul.
NBC is also rolling out Blindspot. They talk about it as if it is the new POI or The Blacklist, but if you nail down the pieces, there’s a much simpler analogy. Person found. Has amnesia. Seems to be involved in espionage, global conspiracy. Has mad skills, including multiple languages, and advanced hand-to-hand combat skills. A super soldier/spy in regular clothes trying to find out who they are. I’ve seen that movie, it starred Matt Damon, and his name was Jason Bourne. Now we have Jane Doe (aka Jane Bourne). Girl found naked in duffle bag in Times Square. She has tattoos all over her body, and ties to the FBI (a name on her back). She can speak a dialect of what appears to be Mandarin (as an aside, the expert field agents say, “Hey, you can speak Chinese?” — even the most basic agent would know that Chinese wasn’t a language and that they speak Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.). Oh, and she has amnesia. So they poke her, prod her, can’t find out anything about her. Except well she has an old SEAL tattoo that is hidden under other tattoos, even though there are no female SEALs (They theorize: “But if she was in Special Ops, we wouldn’t know.”), and when pressed by a wife-beater, she defends herself expertly and violently against two larger thugs in a knock-down, drag-out fight.
The scene is almost a longer recreation of Bourne disarming two police officers who roust him for sleeping in the park. Including the scene where he / she blocks the first “blow”, pauses to look at the block in surprise, and then the fight continues. The rest of the EP is run-of-the-mill, except for the final scene where a number tattoo matches a file number that the head agent is reading (even though 98% of it is redacted). A mystery! Dun, dun, dun! NBC has been promoting this out the wazoo, and with good reason. Jaimie Alexander plays Jane, and she is awesome. Lots of people have seen her as Lady Sif in the Thor movies and wanted her to have her own spin-off, but if they think she got it here, she didn’t. Lady Sif is sleek, strong, confident, sexy, a definitive presence from her demeanor to her hair. By contrast, Jane is almost diminutive in appearance, slim, athletic without being muscular, frightened, unsure, even vulnerable. The difference is striking, and Alexander pulls it off perfectly. Unfortunately, she is playing opposite Sullivan Stapleton as the FBI agent. He’s dark, brooding, has a yet-to-be-revealed backstory of some distinction (either dark or heroic). But the entire EP, you’d swear he was a robot. Almost no emotion. Even when she saves his life at the end. Really, he only has one good scene (action) in the middle of the EP. Quite disappointing. But let’s not kid ourselves — I’m in for the duration. The premise is rock solid and so is Alexander.
CBS has joined the super hero craze (Fox has Gotham, ABC has Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., CW has the Flash, Arrow and the upcoming DC Legends of Tomorrow, Netflix has Daredevil) with the addition of Supergirl. For those in the know, Superman is Kal-El, of the house of El. His cousin, Kara, was older and sent to Earth to protect him, but was blown off course by the explosion of Krypton, ending up in the Phantom Zone before escaping in her ship and coming to earth as a teenager. Superman didn’t need her protection, so she hid her powers and tried to live among humans, including her adoptive parents (the Danvers). In this version at least. She is now a young adult, spreading her wings, part of a media conglomerate and working for an uncaring female boss from hell. When her sister’s plane almost crashes, Kara swoops to save her, and voila, her hiding days are over. The public knows there is a female super hero in their midst. Her sister is disgusted — how could she reveal herself, even to save her? — but it quickly becomes apparent that it was an attack on the sister. It appears that Alex, the sister, actually works for an ultrasecret organization (like SHIELD but called DEO) that tracks and monitors extra-terrestrials.
Apparently, the Phantom Zone followed Kara to Earth, and all hell is about to be unleashed. Kara and the baddie face off, and Kara gets her ass handed to her. But her sister helps her devise a new plan, the baddie is vanquished, all is well in the world. Kara even has a new workplace pal — Jimmy, ahem, James Olsen. Who Superman sent to see if Kara needed a friend while she adjusted. Awww, isn’t that sweet? Maybe showing up to help defeat Phantom Zone criminals would have been more helpful, but still, an unshreddable cape is nice too. CW will likely kick its own butt for not picking this up, but their superhero plate was full, so CBS grabbed it. And Melissa Benoist is going to be awesome. With her hair died blonde, and dressed a bit frumpy, she makes an awesome dorky Kara Danvers. I could do without the cutesy “shouldn’t she be SuperWoman?” discussion, and a few other humourous asides until the show is a bit more established, but it is even lighter in tone than the Flash, which is saying something. There’s very little doubt this will go several seasons at least, and I’m along for the ride. Oddly enough, the character I might like best? Her step-sister, Alex, played by Chyler Leigh. So that’s it…six premieres down, thirty-six to go.