Welcome to “5 Questions and 500 Words,” my approach this year to reviewing the sundry pilots that will be unspooling over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.
Sleepy Hollow, premieres September 16 at 9 pm EST on FOX
Yes and no. When it goes weird, it goes balls-out weird. If reading “the Headless Horseman walks around modern-day rural New York wielding automatic weapons” gets you excited, then by all means watch. Just know that the sizzle reels for this show contains all the completely batshit stuff.
Well, what’s in the other 40 minutes of the pilot?
A lot of exposition, which is necessary in most pilots in order to establish the premise but nevertheless will have you waiting for the show to embrace its inner silliness. Ichibod Crane (Tom Mison) has the unfortunate task of explaining the show’s long-term plans to his partner Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), which somehow explains how these two were destined to be paired together. Also, he helpfully explains how this show is designed for a seven-season run.
Wait, seven years? Isn’t that a long time to chase after the Headless Horsemen?
Because this is television, and because Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are involved, expect to learn about a vast conspiracy in this pilot that 1) helps explain how in the living hell Ichibod Crane and the Headless Horseman end up in modern times, and 2) helps explain how this show might actually work on a week-to-week basis. I’m not saying these explanations are actually GOOD. But props to the show for actually outlining a way in which it won’t be a series of repetitive narrow escapes. The pilot still feels like the first half of a perfectly acceptable and entertainment B-movie rather than the start of a multi-season show.
Does the show lean into its weirdness or try and play it straight?
It depends a lot on the scene in question, as the show doesn’t seem to be able to know how to tow the line. There’s plenty “wacky” fish-out-of-water stuff involving Crane coming to terms with the reality of his situation. And there are some hints that Mison has excellent comic timing, should the show ever jump into the deep end of its camp roots. But the levity on display at times is overshadowed by the heavy, portentous nature that largely dominates the proceedings.
Should I actually watch this show?
If you want “Assassin’s Creed: The Television Series,” then go for it. My instinct is that this show falls into the same category as many others this Fall: it features a great premise for a film, not a television series. Just because I can see how episode nine might unfold doesn’t mean it will be a good episode. The conceit allows for breadth (read: monsters/threats of the week) without much depth. It all depends on how much fun this show has with its premise. There’s room in my TV diet for a cheeky show with nonsense mythology and strong lead performances. We’ll just have to see if “Sleepy Hollow” stays light on its feet or gets weighed down by its own solemnity.