October 9, 2013

PREMIERING TONIGHT: THE SKED Pilot Review – CW’s “The Tomorrow People”


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THE TOMORROW PEOPLE:  Wednesday 9PM on CW – If Nothing Else Is On…

THE TOMORROW PEOPLE is CW sticking with the CW playbook.  The word “rip-off” may be a strong label for a show whose concept dates back to a British TV series that began in 1973, but at least in its current incarnation, it plays very much like a second-hand, much less interesting version of X-Men: First Class.

We therefore have the usual CW band of teen protagonists, our main hero being Stephen (Robbie Amell, whose own cousin Stephen happens to be the star of the show’s lead-in Arrow, both shows produced by Greg Berlanti–Hollywood’s idea of a small world).  This Amell is troubled by a very unusual sleep disorder, one that has him waking up in odd locations even if those places are secured by deadbolts and he’s been strapped to his bed before going to sleep.  He also keeps hearing a strange female voice in his head.  His concerned mother (Sarah Clarke) fears the worst–his father, who deserted them when Stephen was young, had similar issues–and has the boy on medication.  Even sympathetic friend Astrid (Madeleine Mantock) thinks he’s losing it.  But soon enough, he learns that the voice in his head belongs to Cara (Peyton List), and he’s transported by John (Luke Mitchell) to the underground lair of the Tomorrow People and told he’s One of Them.

The Tomorrow People, aka “homo superior” (no, really), all have the same three powers, which they call the 3 Ts:  teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis.  (It’s not clear how any of those powers got them an AI supercomputer, which they call Tim.)  The powers “break out” during the teen years, and are a form of, you guessed it, genetic mutation.  They’ve been watching Stephen for a long time, because even among the special, he’s The Chosen One–his father, far from a deadbeat dad, is the lost messiah of the Tomorrow People, and they believe one day he’ll return to lead them to some kind of promised land.  Stephen has super-duper-duper genes that give him powers that none of the others have, like the ability to stop time.  (Also unclear:  why, aside from Stephen’s father, there are no Tomorrow Adults, unless they quietly have a Logan’s Run thing going on the side.)

Of course, all of this comes with a downside, which turns out to be called Ultra, an agency led by the evil genetic biologist Dr. Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino, once Jacob on Lost), who fears that the Tomorrow People will one day annihilate normal humanity, and thus has made it his mission to neutralize them all, either by chemically removing their abilities or, more directly, by shooting them in the head.  The big last-act reveal of the pilot is that Jedikiah has his own connection to Stephen as well, which might have been a surprise if it weren’t a variation of the same twist that’s so familiar it barely counts as a twist anymore.

All of this provides a functional premise, but the script by US series creator Phil Klemmer (this is his first turn at running a series, although he was a senior writer/producer on Chuck and the short-lived Undercovers) provides little promise of more.  Admittedly, pilots for this sort of thing bear the burden of conveying piles of exposition.  The good ones, though, do so in a way that also allows for some personality, emotion and wit.  There’s very little of that in the Tomorrow People pilot, which is a surprise considering that not only Berlanti but Julie Plec, rockstar showrunner of The Vampire Diaries and the new The Originals, are among the supervising producers.  None of the characters or actors have any pop, let alone the distinctiveness of their X-Men counterparts, and each exists in one dimension:  earnestness for Cara and Jack, troubled for Stephen, smooth-talking evil for Jedikiah.  Their powers are highly unspectacular visually in a world of superhero spectacles, and even the pilot, which will have been higher-budgeted than regular season episodes, looks rather cheap under Danny Cannon’s direction, a surprise since he’s house director on Nikita, a show that’s made a specialty of looking far more expensive than it really is .

The Tomorrow People will have plenty of chance to prove itself on the air.  Not only is it produced by a veritable all-star team of CW producers, which will ensure it some network respect, but the show has been given the best timeslot possible, with Arrow as its lead in and competition (Criminal Minds, SVU, Modern Family, X-Factor) all aiming at different, older audiences.  And perhaps with time it will find its way to somewhere more compelling–Arrow certainly improved during its initial season, and although one imagines Plec has her hands full with her own vampire double-feature, she knows as much as anyone about developing supernatural stories and characters.  For now, though, the show is far from Televisionus Superior.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."