Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Geek's Paradise? Fox TV's Sleepy Hollow

Sally and I sat down and watched Fox’s new show Sleepy Hollow last night.  Have you seen it?  To say the least, it was not quite what I was expecting.  When we were talking beforehand about what we were gonna watch, I told Sally, “I think it’s gonna be something like Fringe.”

Promotional Image from the Sleepy Hollow website.
But no, that wasn’t it at all.

Where Fringe--and the X-Files and most of those other stranger-than-reality type shows--usually play coy with the weird or the supernatural, Sleepy Hollow went overt and right-in-your-face with it.  Ichabod Crane rises from the dead in the second scene, and from there we see multiple full-body shots of the demonic headless horseman fighting Sleepy Hollow’s local cops.  And that’s only the beginning.  Priests casting spells, multiple magical dreamstates, a white-furred, goat-legged demon with goat horns…  This wasn’t a weird police procedural or even a police procedural with horror-fantasy elements.  This was full-blown urban fantasy made for prime-time television.  More Lost Girl or The Dresden Files than the X-Files, if you ask me.
I’ll admit that I was surprised.  For one thing, the over-the-top fantasy stuff doesn’t always work on TV or film.  It just doesn’t look right; it looks so unbelievable that it often jerks the audience straight out of the story.  Hence Jeph Loeb’s motto on the old TV show Smallville”No flights, no tights”.
The Dresden Files.
A fantastic book series that didn't make it on TV.
But, then again, I’ve been surprised before by what the kids are watching before.  For example, I cannot for the life of me understand the draw of a show like Glee, but people are certainly watching it, so who knows?  Maybe they’ll watch this, too.
On the other hand, I’m as big a geek as anybody, and I didn’t exactly love Sleepy Hollow’s pilot.  I mean, it was cool to see the town on TV--I worked there some last summer--but beyond that, it really didn’t grab me.  For one thing, this idea that George Washington was secretly some kind of demon hunter rings false.  I mean, yeah, I know he was a Mason, and that’s fine, but I also think that if he’d known something about the coming of the Four Horsemen of Apocalpse, I think he’d probably have written that down and left it for posterity someplace that somebody in the government could’ve found it long after he was gone.  He was a thinker like that--a planner.  He had a very specific vision of what he wanted this country and its Executive Branch to be, and he lived it by his example.  With that in mind, I think it very likely that he’d have also established some kind of organization to see what the show makes out to be an important part of his life’s work to completion.
Bottom line, you can tell whatever stories you want, but how they go over is ultimately decided by how effectively they’re executed.  This story in particular didn’t bother me, but when you introduce serious fantasy elements, you give the suspension of disbelief a higher hurdle, and I think that with that comes the necessity to make the motivations and all the rest MORE believable, not less.  So I’d like to like Sleepy Hollow, but at this point, it’s still looking like a pretty interesting season of TV on the horizon, and I’m certainly not going to commit to it just because it’s got fantasy elements.  Beyond that, I guess we’ll have to see how it goes.


  1. This may be a less romantic alternative to Once Upon a Time (x2) for network TV.

    1. I hadn't thought of that because I don't watch that show, but that's a good call.