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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TV Review: Sleepy Hollow

Fox's new Monday night drama Sleepy Hollow premiered yesterday, taking the #1 slot with 10 million viewers and making it the broadcasting company's "highest-rated fall drama premiere in six years," according to Entertainment Weekly [1]. Described by as "the bastard child of ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm,"[2] the show was created by Transformers and Star Trek scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, director Len Wiseman (Underworld), and writer/producer Phillip Iscove.

As could be expected from a retelling of one of America's most adapted literary stories, Sleepy Hollow isn't a wholly original show. Following a TV Land trend of taking a public domain story or fairy-tale and resetting it in the modern world, the series is basically a supernatural procedural thriller that takes many liberties with Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Included among these liberties is chief protagonist Ichabod Crane (played by Brit import Tom Mison) who has been transformed (no pun intended) by the writers from a cowardly and lanky 1790's Connecticut schoolmaster into a determine and hunky British Redcoat turned Continental Army soldier and George Washington spy. Dying from a wound sustained during battle in which he beheads a Hessian mercenary, Crane wakes up Rip Van Winkle-style in 2013 where he must team up with Sheriff's Deputy Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to unlock the secrets behind the town of Sleepy Hollow, New York and to stop the Hessian who has also returned as the Headless Horseman.

Despite some questionable plot points and some bad acting from Beharie and Orlando Jones who plays Police Captain Frank Irving (hmmm...Irving? Coincidence?), the show was actually pretty enjoyable. There were a lot of creative angles and camera work that one might expect from one a Hollywood blockbuster. The special effect were also pretty amazing with the Horseman moving fluidly and CG elements being rendered realistically.

The writing wasn't too bad either. It was interesting to see how the writers interwove different elements into their story to make it their own and separate it from previous retelling. Historical details like George Washington as spymaster or the witch hysteria of 17th and 18th century brought color into this tale. Crane's 18th century worldview also made for some hilarious moments as our time-displaced hero experienced his new environment with awkwardness and culture-shock. The recasting of classical monster fairy-tale is reminiscent more of the success behind CW's Supernatural than that the shortcomings of Grimm and the slightly more tolerable, yet still tedious Once Upon a Time. Time will tell whether or not Sleepy Hollow will keep a place on my DVR schedule.  Next Monday's episode does looks promising. Just saying.

Sleepy Hollow airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST following Bones at 8 o'clock. Check your local listings. If you missed yesterday's episode, the four minute trailer below from Fox actually highlights some of the key points. But if you'd rather watch the show, the full episode is currently available on Hulu.