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.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
- 4 Miami defendant sobs in court as he realises he and the judge attended the same school
- 5 Chinese stock market has lost £1.5 trillion in the last three weeks
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Britain's best outdoor cinemas to visit this summer from Somerset House to Luna Cinema
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture