March 10, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Review: “Believe”


BELIEVE:  Sunday 9PM on NBC (Premiere Monday 10PM on March 10) – If Nothing Else Is On…

Movie wizard and newly-minted Best Director Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron is the co-creator of BELIEVE (although it was never intended that he would stay with the show on a day-to-day basis once it went to series) and directed its pilot, and fans of his Children of Men will appreciate the dazzling 3-minute single take that kicks it off, depicting a car wreck and its violent aftermath with a camera that roves both within and outside the vehicle.  There are some other visually arresting sequences throughout the pilot as well, but right now, the show itself is uncomfortably close to the mystical hooey that was Touch.

It’s only fair to note that even more than most shows, the series version of Believe may differ from its pilot, since first Cuaron’s co-creator Mark Friedman exited the series after it was produced, and then Friedman’s replacement was fired too, to be supplanted by Jonas Pate.  Clearly the show’s creative vision has been in flux, and only future episodes will make clear what direction it intends to take, although we do know that the assassin who’s set up as the central villain in the pilot (played by Sienna Guillory) won’t be appearing in the series.

Even in its original form, Believe isn’t quite as deep in the murk as Touch.  Both shows revolve around a magically gifted child pursued by evildoers, but Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), a girl despite both the character’s and performer’s names, behaves more or less like an ordinary kid when she’s not foreseeing the future or making birdies flock at her command.  She even manages some banter with Tate (Jake McLaughlin), who’s appointed in the pilot as her new protector.  Tate hasn’t been chosen lightly:  Winter (Delroy Lindo), who seems to run the Protect Bo operation, has Tate freed from death row just moments before his scheduled execution to take on the task.  The relationship between Tate and Bo is set up as the center of the series, and to the show’s credit (and unlike NBC’s The Blacklist), it jumps right into a big reveal at the pilot’s close to explain what Tate is doing there.

Nevertheless, there’s already enough wrong with Believe to make one worry for its future.  Bo isn’t just supernatural and capable of saving the world in ways we don’t yet know, she’s also so empathetic that, like the protagonist of Touch, she knows the inmost thoughts and emotions of everyone around her, and she’s driven to better their lives.  In the pilot, she makes it her duty to restore a doctor’s faith in his abilities, reads the emotions of his comatose father to let the doctor know he’s loved, and even set up a potential romance, all in between dodging bullets, while Tate, like Kiefer Sutherland in Touch, reluctantly goes along.  The heartwarming-meets-shootout dynamic didn’t work before, and it could prove equally tiresome here.

Believe is giving itself a makeover, and the show deserves time and space to get that done.  There are promising elements here, especially Cuaron’s involvement but also the presence of Lindo in the cast and Jamie Chung (she was Mulan on Once Upon A Time), as well as Kyle MacLachlan, although his role isn’t yet clear.  The show it offers a potential action alternative to Resurrection and The Good Wife on the one hand, and FOX’s Cosmos on the other.  But there’s a great deal of work to be done, starting with the basic concept, and it’ll take more than mere faith to save the enterprise.

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."