Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pilot Review: The Tomorrow People


The Tomorrow People (Wednesdays at 9:00 on The CW)

The Tomorrow People has a lot working against it: it's on The CW, its title sucks, and its premise is a rip off of a dozen (or more) more popular works. Just off the top of my head, The Tomorrow People bears more than a passing resemblance to X-Men, Heroes, Misfits and Alias, to the point that the pilot sometimes feels like a pastiche of old scripts and lines from these superior serials. But it also has a sense of humor about itself, and it moves at a quick, action-filled clip so that we don't really get the sense of deja-vu that is lurking around every corner.

Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell, cousin of Arrow star Stephen Amell) thinks he's schizophrenic, just like his absentee father. He wakes up in strange places, like his neighbors' beds, and hears the voice of a young woman in his head. But suddenly that voice convinces Stephen that she is real, and he finds out that he is part of a genetically mutated group of homo superior who call themselves "The Tomorrow People." They all possess the "Three T's:" telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation. Led by Cara (Peyton List, FlashForward) and John (Luke Mitchell), these young people are trying to find a place to live safely and hone their powers, all the while pursued by the organization Ultra, a group of humans who want to "neutralize" the Tomorrow People. Unbeknownst to Stephen, his father was the Tomorrow People's former fearless leader and went missing at the hands of Ultra's leader, Jed (Lost's Mark Pellegrino).

It's all very standard superhero/comic book stuff. In fact, nothing about The Tomorrow People is original. Creators Greg Berlanti (Arrow), Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries), and Phil Klemmer (Veronica Mars) have developed this remake of the 1970s British children's show without adding anything new or terribly modern to the concept of teenage superheroes. How many times can we watch an iteration of the superpowers-as-puberty concept? The only thing that sets this group of genetic mutants aside from any of the others you have seen/read is their inability to kill people. That's right, these heroes are physically unable to kill anyone. It levels the playing field a little bit, since the humans of Ultra don't have powers, but it also limits things as well. Jed and his people have no qualms about killing the Tomorrow People, but they can't retaliate. That whole dynamic is going to get old real quick.

The performances are about what you'd expect from a series like this. Amell is too good-looking to be the dork he's supposed to be (much like Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider Man), but he's fun to watch and nails the awkwardness in his scenes with his family. Pellegrino is the stereotypical Angry Man, and he can scowl with the best of them. The other Tomorrow People aren't fully defined characters yet, but they provide the comedic relief this action-filled, sometimes-too-serious pilot needs. Aaron Yoo is the same bundle of energy he was in the films 21 and Disturbia, and Petyon List gets some really fun lines like, "We're called The Tomorrow People... We didn't pick the name, we swear." Klemmer's script sets everything up quickly and succinctly, without much out-of-the-box creativity but with an assured hand, and director Danny Cannon (Nikita, Alcatraz) keeps everything moving along nicely. The special effects are the real reason to watch. At what can only be, what I assume, a fraction of the cost of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these effects by Emmy winner Armen V. Kevorkian are both more effective and more engrossing than its big-budget competitor. Working in tandem with Cannon's direction, the visual effects never look cheesy or over-the-top (like they do in, say, Once Upon a Time) and are never overused. They're just cool, plain and simple.

I suppose, when it's all said and done, The Tomorrow People is fine entertainment. It's not great or original television, but I don't think it ever wanted to be. It's still fun, and it's a perfect companion for lead-in Arrow to make a night of mindless, testosterone-fueled, sci-fi for beginners.

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