TV review: Unsolved murder cases, horned demons and missed tricks in Sleepy Hollow
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 09 October 2013
Welcome to the little town of Sleepy Hollow, population: 440,000. Forecast: raining anachronisms. This new US-made fantasy series stars Nicole Beharie as Detective Abbie Mills.
Mills is about to leave town for an FBI training course at Quantico when the supposedly sleepy Sleepy Hollow starts waking up. Her partner, Sheriff Corbin, is murdered by a headless horseman in an 18th-century Redcoat uniform, and a man claiming to be a soldier from the same time period, recently risen from the grave, is arrested walking the streets. He calls himself Ichabod Crane.
That name and the figure of the headless horseman are just about all that survives from Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Plot-wise, Universal Channel's Sleepy Hollow is closer to Tim Burton's 1999 feature film, only minus the Burtonesque feel for gothic gloom that was that film's main selling point.
The title is really only an excuse for an overcooked occult plot that somehow encompasses unsolved murder cases, competing covens of good and evil witches, a horned demon and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – and that's just in episode one. Some sample fantasy TV series mumbo-jumbo: "When you wounded the horseman your bloodlines merged, you became linked, bounded together by blood." Well that explains everything, then.
Co-opting folklore themes into a modern setting has worked well in the past, but Sleepy Hollow lacks Buffy the Vampire Slayer's way with a pop culture reference, or a heroine as spunky as Sarah Michelle Gellar. Beharie is pretty unremarkable and she heads up an unremarkable cast, whose high-point is a role for John Cho (better known as Harold from the Harold & Kumar films).
If the writers were bolder there could have been some interesting conflict between Mills, an African-American female in a position of power, and the stranger from a time when such a thing would be unthinkable. Instead, it was made clear early on that Crane (Tom Mison) holds some pretty progressive views for an 18th-century Englishman.
This minimised the potential for fish-out-of-water humour, and if you hoped that decapitation puns would make up the gag shortfall, you'd have been disappointed. Here's one on me: Sleepy Hollow is mildly diverting television, but it's nothing worth losing your head over.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote