Equal parts “X-Men” and “The Matrix” — with a just-flowering-into-manhood kid being told he has great powers and therefore unexpected responsibility — “The Tomorrow People” certainly borrows liberally from pop culture staples, despite deriving its name from a long-forgotten British series introduced in the 1970s. Unlike Marvel’s mutants, though, this me-too drama occupies a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder, even with the requisite CW casting and a solid heavy in “Lost” alum Mark Pellegrino. “Nature doesn’t make mistakes,” the reluctant hero is told, in one of those classic sci-fi lines with real-world parallels. Yet in TV development, networks frequently do.
Opening with voiceover — a common device at CW, used to provide the audience immediate access to a character’s innermost thoughts — young Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell, the cousin of “Arrow’s” Stephen Amell) informs us, “Lately, strange things have been happening to me.”
They get a lot stranger fast, when the disembodied voice he keeps hearing finally shows up, looking pretty fabulous (“Mad Men’s” recurring Peyton List. She quickly tells him that he’s part of a next-generation group with psychokinetic abilities and the power of teleportation. They even have a new-species name, Homo Superior, mirroring the designation used to describe “X-Men’s” mutants.
Not surprisingly, there are shadowy forces at work who fear these gifted offshoots (although no Sentinels, mercifully), part of a backstory that might help account for the absence of Stephen’s father.
Yet, as adapted under the genre-savvy stewardship of Greg Berlanti, “Tomorrow People” simply feels too much like a knockoff of more familiar genetic superhumans. Moreover, the pilot indicates life and school are apparently supposed to continue for Stephen even after he discovers his remarkable secret life, which even under a superhero scenario raises the question how one focuses on a trigonometry exam after discovering the fate of the world might hang on your actions.
From a more prosaic perspective, the series is being paired Wednesdays with Berlanti’s “Arrow,” which not only offers an all-in-the-family connection but does appear to provide a logical thematic linkage.
That said, there’s not a lot in the premiere to bring an audience stampeding back to find out what happens next. And in terms retaining “Arrow’s” target audience, “Tomorrow” is another sci-fi show, all right — but hardly a superior one.