Thursday, September 19, 2013

Heady Programming

You know how I said I wasn’t really excited for any new shows this season. I take that back. After watching the pilot, I’m all kinds of excited for “Sleepy Hollow.” The new drama doesn’t make any sense on paper. A supernatural thriller about Revolutionary War-era Ichabod Crane who emerges after centuries of dormancy in modern-day Sleepy Hollow only to be chased again by a headless horseman hell-bent on bringing, well, hell to the world. Yeah, um, OK. Sure.

But then I watched it because not much else was happening Monday night and, you know, I always liked Washington Irving’s spooky little story. And, damn, if it wasn’t entertaining. Like more entertaining than such a wacky premise should be, complete with crazy conspiracy theories, evil (and good) witches, demons, decapitations. It’s an unexpected mix of apocalyptic conspiracy thriller, time-traveling adventure and odd-couple buddy-cop show all wrapped in one. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still packs in plenty of scares.

All that would be fine and good, but “Sleepy Hollow” does one more thing that makes it well worth watching. It has a woman of color as its co-lead. Not the best friend, not the sassy co-worker, not the neighbor who pops in to show the lead knows black people. Nope, the co-lead. “Sleepy Hollow” gives us policewoman Abbie Mills (a very capable Nicole Beharie from “42”), who teams up with Ichabod to get to the bottom of all the weirdness afoot.

Now, you might say, what’s the big deal? This is 2013. Obama is president. Racism over. But think about it. How many broadcast shows in primetime feature women of color as leads? “Scandal,” “Elementary,” “The Mindy Project,” “Grey’s Anatomy” (which is really stretching it because it’s a large ensemble show without clear individual leads) and then it gets tricky. So seeing a new show centered around an African-American woman as its smart, strong co-lead, yeah, that still matters – it matters a lot.

Also, damn, if it didn’t have some impressively nuanced humor when it comes to race (something not often seen in genre shows) in the pilot. When just-work-up from his long, long sleep Ichabod asks if Abbie is an emancipated slave, she shoots him a look. And then he tries to pull the 1770s equivalent of “Hey, some of my best friends are black!” she similarly is unimpressed.

Ichabod: “If you’re insinuating I endorse slavery, I’m offended…I’ll have you know I was a proponent of the Abolitionist Act before the New York Assembly.”
Abbie: “Congratulations. Slavery has been abolished 150 years. It’s a whole new day in America.”

I don’t know if it’s a whole new day, but I’ve already set my DVR for “Sleepy Hollow” to that headless horseman can ride another day – make it season – on my TV.

p.s. Want to watch? The premiere is streaming on Fox and Hulu right now.


Anonymous said...

it's also free on itunes. I watched it last night and was hooked - although I'm super sad that the creepy preacher from HBO's Carnivale was killed off. I was interested in seeing him in a different role.


Unknown said...

Just watched it. I have been a fan of the funny little movie for quite some time, it will always be one of my favourites. So I was a little apprehensive when I heard they were making a tv show along the same line, but, I just finished watching the first episode and I'm already hooked! It surprised me and freaked me out in all the right ways! I can't wait 'til the next episode! PS, That last second scared me!