Monday, June 1, 2015

Pilot Review: Stitchers

Stitchers (Tuesdays at 9:00 on ABC Family; Premieres June 2)

Before sitting down to watch Stitchers, ask yourself a few questions: Am I the type of person who requires a modicum of logic from the shows I watch? Do I tend to enjoy shows with snappy dialogue, dynamic characters, and strong performances? Is there another channel I could be watching on Tuesdays at 9:00?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, take a hard pass on Stitchers.

ABC Family definitely has a niche: a young, teenage (or recently teenaged) audience who enjoys a slightly dumbed-down version of adult fare. Stichers is the latest in that line of programming, the network's first attempt at a procedural, a science-fiction one at that, but obviously with a youthful sensibility. That sensibility, however, turns into stupidity about halfway through the pilot. The story concerns college student Kirsten (newcomer Emma Ishta), a computer something-or-other major with temporal dysplasia, a condition which leaves her with no concept or perception of time. Apparently that also makes her emotionless. She lives with another girl (Warehouse 13's Allison Scagliotti) who hates her because her condition makes her an asshole; Kirsten gets kicked out of school because of it. But then some federal agent (Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Eureka) kidnaps Kirsten and brings her on board a top-secret, cutting-edge squad of "stitchers:" scientists who can "stitch" a conduit into the memories of a deceased person to help solve crimes. Who needs good old fashioned detective work when you can project your consciousness into a corpse's past?!

It's a silly premise that could actually be a lot of fun if the producers embraced the inherent camp of everything. I mean, let's get this out there: Stitchers makes no friggin' sense. NONE. So the least the producers could do is embrace that and try to make the show campy and funny. Instead they went the exact opposite and took everything absurdly seriously. You have Ishta walking around acting like a robot unfamiliar with human emotions and customs, and Kyle Harris from The Carrie Diaries info-dumping like its nobody's business, trying to make the concept click logically (it never happens, so he should just give up and copy Fran Kranz's performance from Dollhouse, since they're essentially the same character). I mean, how do you take a script seriously when you have a completely inane line like, "Okay, Stretch, into the drink!" First of all: Stretch? Why? Is Kirsten tall or something? Secondly, the drink? Are we pirates?  Who writes crap like that? The answer is Jeff Schechter, the creator of Stitchers whose major past credits include a slew of direct-to-video family film sequels and made-for-TV movies. It's no surprise the show is full of such stupid dialogue and flat-as-a-board characters.

But the least Schecter could do, if he's going to take himself so seriously, was write a script that made sense... but no part of Stitchers is clear or logical. I'm not even sure what time period this is set in. Is it the future? Because there are a lot of mentions of computer-based majors at Kirsten's college, which would suggest a techno-focused near-future, but it's never made clear. Everyone still uses cell phones and laptops, so it's not obviously futuristic, but then the stitching lab looks like it could be on a space ship. And the whole idea of Kirsten entering a dead person's memory is completely asinine, at least in execution. Too many questions of logistics are raised when Kirsten is stitched into the dead man's memories in the pilot. If she's in someone else's consciousness, how can she be in one location while the person is in another? He's in the bedroom while she stays in the living room; how can she be in a place where his memories never were? His memories would be of himself in the bedroom, not of his apartment as a whole with all the details of it completely in place. And for that matter, wouldn't she only be able to experience a corpse's consciousness through the corpse's point of view? If you think about it too much (or at all, really), the whole premise starts to fall apart.

The situation isn't helped by its wooden-but-pretty leading lady; the charisma-less Harris's over-the-top performance; or Richardson-Whitfield's less-than-commanding presence. Nothing is up to snuff with Stitchers. It's a shame, because this should have been a fun experiment for ABC Family to come up with a teenage rip-off of a SyFy series. But it lacks the camp of Pretty Little Liars, the heart of The Fosters, and the all-around talent behind Switched at Birth. Instead, it's lifeless drivel that's too stupid to entertain any viewer with even half a brain.

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