TV Review: ‘Sleepy Hollow’

Sleepy Hallow Review Fox

Fox pilot is filled with mythological mumbo-jumbo -- and, lacking a head, could use some legs

Remember “New Amsterdam,” a 2008 Fox series starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a crime-solving immortal? The network and the producers of “Sleepy Hollow” — another Fox drama built around an anachronistic, colonial-era protagonist who looks surprisingly robust in the present day — is surely hoping you don’t. Bringing a swashbuckling Ichabod Crane into the 21st century, the series is filled with mythological mumbo-jumbo and has some fun playing off the past a la “National Treasure.” Still, the concept raises questions not only about the horseman’s absence of a head, but in commercial terms, its wobbly set of legs as well.

Crane (played by Tom Mison), it turns out, wasn’t the bookish fop of literature but rather a spy for Gen. Washington during the Revolutionary War, during which he beheaded a Hessian soldier. Both are brought wrenchingly back to life in modern-day New England, where Ichabod is joined with a local cop (Nicole Beharie) seeking to thwart this bizarre new threat.

Because all that might not sustain a movie, much less an episodic run, series creators Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove and Len Wiseman (of the “Underworld” movies, who also directed the pilot) load up “Sleepy Hollow” with lots of portentous stuff about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, lines like “He is death itself” and exposition about the Headless Horseman’s origins, along with dollops of magic and/or witchcraft pertaining to Crane’s late (or maybe not-so-late) wife (Katia Winter).

While the show is certainly handsomely done, the fish-out-of-water dialogue already feels a little green around the gills (Crane is stunned to see a woman wearing “trousers,” much less an “emancipated” black woman being a cop; and baffled by the sight of a Starbucks on every corner). And the initial race for an artifact to help Crane defeat the Horseman — who goes very 21st century by arming himself, absurdly, with an automatic weapon — suggests there will be a lot of galloping around week to week intended to get the pulse stirring without advancing the central storyline.

Stripped of the mythology, the show is an enterprising way to try to revive something like “The X-Files,” and Fox deserves some credit for returning to this sort of high-concept gambit despite the high risk and (with the exception of NBC’s modestly rated “Grimm”) relatively low success rate lately by broadcast standards.

Still, once you’ve gotten past the image of the Headless Horseman racing down a modern paved street, it’s uncertain how many will want to book an extended stay in “Sleepy Hollow,” which warrants a second look primarily to see whether the pilot was just another one-trick pony.

TV Review: 'Sleepy Hollow'

(Series; Fox, Mon. Sept. 16, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Charlotte, N.C. by Sketch Films and K/O Paper Products in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Heather Kadin, Len Wiseman; supervising producer, Phillip Iscove; producer, Clayton Townsend; director, Wiseman; writers, Kurtzman, Orci, Iscove; story by Kurtzman, Orci, Iscove, Wiseman; camera, Kramer Morgenthau; production designer, Alec Hammond; editor, John Refoua; music, Brian Tyler; casting, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey, Kate Caldwell. 60 MIN.

Cast

Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katie Winter, Clancy Brown, John Cho

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  1. maryrose says:

    I wish that lazy, sloppy Hollywood scriptwriters actually owned Bibles. If they did, they could conveniently turn to the last book of the New Testament to see that the disciple John wrote “The Book of Revelation.” Not Revelations. Revelation, as in one, singular revelation. I had to cringe not once, but twice when the “Book of Revelations” was referred to in this pilot episode. I can’t see this Sleepy Hollow making it to the Halloween season.

  2. kwed says:

    I watched it last night. The pilot was pretty good. The one eye rolling moment was the headless horseman strapped with guns and walking around like the Terminator. Clearly you have to be willing to suspend disbelief to watch and enjoy the show, but death himself seemed plenty deadly without the cliche shotgun holstered to his back. I’m eager to see the next episode, but more of that silliness will force me to move on.

    • Robert Gaito says:

      How is it silly? It would make sense that the Horseman would equip himself with modern day weapons especially since he has guidance in this time.

    • Bill C says:

      Concur with Kwed. I was trying to suspend what I know (been to Sleepy Hollow several times). I was even trying to wrap my head around the Horseman being one of the four horsemen of the apocolypse – being summoned and controlled by some demon that appears to be a walking hammerhead shark, and them already trying to introduce all sorts of witches, demons, and other ghouls. BUT when the Horseman showed up guns blazing – I’m sorry. Just stop it – NOW. Don’t ever do that again.

      • BigRob says:

        i agree with the both of u. the horseman should not not wielding a shotgun or an automatic rifle. I mean come on ge obviously cant be killed so y does he need that type of weaponery. And the introduction of the demons and the witches was a lil bit too early. they should have spread that out over the first 3 or 4 episodes. but all in all it was a good show and i will continue watchimg. and u know that the horseman is going to have that shotgun in his back.

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