I can be fairly forgiving when it comes to television shows, especially those built on an ambitious premises. For example, I actually watched the entire first season of “The Following,” but only because I was hoping it would finally deliver an episode worthy of Edgar Allan Poe. But it only took me two episodes to remove “Sleepy Hollow” from my Hulu queue, and I doubt I’m the only one who’s made such a choice.
Here are some of the reasons I made the decision.
Central Mystery is Not Intriguing
Ever since the success of “Lost,” many shows have been built around deep secrets, with the characters gradually discovering pieces of the truth. But of course, for every successful “deep secret” show, such as “Revolution,” there is a less successful one, like “The Event” (or, as some critics called it, “The Non-Event.”)
“Sleepy Hollow,” a “mystery drama” with supernatural elements, follows the mysteriously preserved Ichabod Crane, who either survived two and a half centuries underground or was recently magically resurrected (and restored to perfect form). He teams up with a modern-day police officer — she’s a woman! And black! What a shock for our hero! But such “fish out of water” allusions are already beginning to taper off, as the focus has become their shared quest to seek out the person (or demon?) responsible for a series of gruesome murders.
Anyone who knows anything about American literature knows the “Big Bad” of this series is the Headless Horseman. In fact, within minutes in the first episode, he’s shownon screen doing his hellish deeds. The big question then becomes why? What sort of creature is he, and could he really be a harbinger of the Apocalypse?
The problem is, this just isn’t enough of a mystery to keep me watching.
Too Much Reliance on Easy Tropes
By the end of its second episode, the show had made it clear that those who were looking for real surprises need look elsewhere. The mysterious man who emerged from an apparent grave? Though a little disheveled at first, he soon became a perfect personification of the “British-accented, attractive smart guy” character depicted in countless American shows, such as “Elementary,” where a modern Sherlock Holmes pairs up with his addiction support person to solve crimes.
In keeping with this character type, Ichabod snootily dismisses modern American sensibilities, striking out on his own to do what he needs to do for the investigation. Inevitably, there will eventually be “sexual tension” introduced between him and his equally attractive partner. That is, for those who stick around long enough to witness it.
Other tropes used during the first two episodes included: the skeptical superior who warns the female cop against siding with a man who, according to the doctors, should be in a mental hospital; a slimy “mole,” working on behalf of the Headless Horseman but pretending to be on the side of our heroes; and of course, a dingy interrogation room where Ichabod is initially questioned and from which he has to escape when supernatural badness happens.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen all of these elements before, done better.
No Interesting Subplots
Usually, the “Deep Mystery” shows add extra complexity to keep viewers watching: for example, the interrelationships between various characters, whose back histories may be unknown; or the investigation and pursuit of the “monster of the week,” such as on “The X Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But so far, at least, the show has been remarkably light on such intrigues. There have been a few hints about the past of the female cop and of Ichabod, but few other characters have been introduced. So far, the only baddie being pursued has been the Headless Horseman.
I just watched an entire season of a show based on the pursuit of one Big Bad (and his legion of two-dimensional sycophants): “The Following.” And let’s just say, I won’t be fooled again.
Thanks to 22 million viewers, however, FOX has renewed the show for a second series. Maybe it will get better, but I won’t be watching. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
“Sleepy Hollow” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX.