TV Review: CW’s The Tomorrow People (with spoilers):
Premiering last night on the CW, The Tomorrow People is a remake of the British series from the 70s about Stephen Jameson, a teenager who discovers he has super-powered abilities and joins an underground group of other gifted “teenagers” fighting the “evil” organization “Ultra” trying to hunt them down. This modern take on the series is sleek, entertaining with an attractive cast (perhaps a little too old to play teenagers) and a fun premise with high-quality special effects.
For a pilot, The Tomorrow People is relatively strong. Within the first minute I was brought back to the 90s shows and books I enjoyed growing up. I felt like I was watching a male version of L.J. Smith’s Dark Visions (a series I really think would make a great TV series) with a team of gifted teens (I am still unsure if the other characters besides Stephen and his best friend Astrid are in fact, teenagers) able to communicate inside each other’s minds with a psychic link.
After Stephen discovers who he is and the other super-powered “teenagers” like him (and the fact that his supposed deadbeat Dad was their leader), he’s captured by the villain Jed, who in fact later turns out to be his uncle. In the end, Stephen, in full Sydney Bristow style, becomes a double agent of sorts joining Ultra to track down other super-humans. With a great premise and a strong hook, the show has begun to a solid start.
The style of the series is fantastic. There’s a gritty urban feeling to the show with nice use of colors, effects, and camera work. One of my favorite parts of the episode was toward the beginning when Stephen walks into the high school; the shots of all the students staring at him as he walks through the crowded hallway reveals his outsider status, with a tone again reminiscent of 90s YA books and TV Series (just with better modern effects). The atmosphere really drew me in and I flashed back to the shows that came before which were arguably done better than many of the teen shows now. Not to mention the action as well as the overall approach isn’t cheesy.
Besides the look and feel of the series, the casting (albeit a tad cliché and too pretty) was picked well. Robbie Amell (cousin to Arrow’s Stephen Amell) is likable and believable as the leading man. He brings physicality to the role necessary to pull off the character and it will be easy to place him into the role of action hero. He’s definitely a star on the rise, just like his cousin was last year.
Beyond Amell, the villain was cast perfectly. Jed played by Lost/Supernatural/Being Human alum Mark Pellegrino (who is turning into the go-to bad guy) is the best part of the series so far. His dry delivery of lines makes him the ideal choice. Every time he was on screen the show just worked. The best kinds of villains are the ones who are convinced they’re the good guy and Jed is no exception. You can kind of see the reveal coming a mile away (being Stephen’s uncle and all), but it’s so entertaining to watch the cliché doesn’t really annoy.
The supporting characters are promising. I find Luke Mitchell as John and Aaron Yoo as Russell the most charismatic. Luke is the show’s bad boy for sure and he sizzles on screen, while Yoo is seemingly the comedic relief character. That said, it is really hard to see any of these actors as teenagers and again I’m not actually convinced they are yet. And if they aren’t teenagers, I’m not really sure why Cara (Peyton List) would seemingly have romantic feelings for a high school student. I hope this becomes clearer in future episodes.
On top of the supporting cast members, Sarah Clarke (24) was cleverly cast as Stephen’s mother. With Clarke cast, one begs the question: How much does she actually know? Is she as good as she appears to be or is she hiding something? Maybe she really will play the straight-forward mother (she did in Twilight) who really doesn’t know anything. But then why cast Sarah Clarke and waste her talents? She doesn’t need to turn out to be bad per se, but I would love to see more of her. Maybe like Fox Mulder’s mother she’s in on more than what she’s saying which would make for very interesting television viewing. No one plays a duplicitous liar quite like Clarke, so here’s to hoping!
As a cool little casting choice, Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey fame) plays the voice of the computer. I’m thinking we should have a female counterpart with Michelle Dockery as the voice! That way Mary and Matthew can “reunite” and all will be right in the world. Just saying! But his melodic voice makes him a perfect fit for the role. It’s too bad we won’t ever see him, but beggars can’t be choosers!
If Arrow (also by Berlanti) is any indication of stunt casting, then I assume we’ll continue to see more awesome cast additions of actors from previous hit or cult status shows. I hear Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars, Moonlight) will be appearing in episode four. Before even seeing him in one episode, I vote he joins the cast full time. Or better yet, the CW should give him his own show!
What Didn’t Work
For someone who has grown tired of female characters being in the dark, I really hope Stephen’s best friend Astrid learns the truth fairly quickly. She’s Stephen’s best friend and has stuck by him through the rough times when most everyone else didn’t. I was glad that he attempted to tell her the truth, but I get the feeling that because his powers didn’t work when he tried to show her, in the future he’s just going to keep it to himself. Personally, I prefer shows like Roswell where the female characters are in on the secret from episode one. Not to mention Astrid is more than a little one noted at this point. I like the best friend character, so I hope they really do more with her.
I also think the characterization could be stronger with the rest of the characters as well. I feel like I “mostly” understand Stephen and the other characters, but not really. There was so much going on, I didn’t feel like the characters’ lives engrossed me or pulled me in. But since it’s only the pilot I’ll give them time to flesh everyone out. At this point at least everyone appears likable and there is a promising chemistry between all of the actors. That can only be improved upon from episode to episode. Basically, I feel the characters are lacking an emotional depth, but that can easily be fixed.
Overall, I really enjoyed the series and find it to be one of the better ones this Fall Season. While the pilot was fun to watch and I was never bored (which is a huge positive these days when many new shows are just plain dull) there does need to be some fine tuning. For The Tomorrow People to work they need to find an original voice. Right now the series is a mishmash of a bunch of different shows that have come before. Besides the 90s teen book influence, there’s elements of Heroes, Alias, Kyle XY and even Smallville. It’s fine to show influence or pay homage to what has come before, but find a new way of telling said stories. That all said I think the series has enormous potential and I really look forward to continuing to watch this show in weeks to come. Like I said, I wasn’t bored. That’s always a good sign in my book for a pilot. It will hopefully only get better from here on out.
What did you think of The Tomorrow People? Let me know in the comments!
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