October 6, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Frequency”


FREQUENCY:  Wednesday 9PM on CW – Potential DVR Alert

We still have ABC’s Time After Time and FOX’s half-hour Making History to come, but of the time-travel sagas we’ve seen so far, CW’s FREQUENCY accomplishes more with far fewer resources than NBC’s lavish Timeless.  While it’s not entirely clear how Jeremy Carver, a longtime writer/producer on Supernatural, intends to extend the sentimental genre story Toby Emmerich wrote in 2000 (Emmerich retains a story credit on the pilot) into a long-term continuing series, it’s off to an compelling start.

The bones of the story are the same as in the movie:  modern-day NYPD detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List, in the role Jim Caviezel had in 2000) discovers on her 28th birthday that the old ham radio in the garage is putting her in touch with her father Frank (Riley Smith), also a cop (he was a firefighter played by Dennis Quaid in the movie) as he was 20 years earlier, days before his death.  Because she knows the circumstances of his killing, she’s able to give him information that saves his life, which in this version also clears him of charges that he died a dirty cop.  But by changing the timeline, Raimy and Frank cause unexpected consequences, including the murder of Raimy’s mother Julie (Devin Kelley) by a serial killer known as the Nightingale.  Father and (in this case) daughter team up across the decades to stop the Nightingale before Julie can be killed.

That’s a relatively finite storyline, which was wrapped up in 2 hours by Emmerich and director Gregory Hoblit.  There’s a nod in the pilot to a larger plot about a police conspiracy involving Frank’s colleagues, who are now senior officers, notably Stan Moreno (Anthony Ruivivar), now Deputy Chief, but so far that seems fairly insubstantial as well.  It remains to be seen whether Carver intends the show to become a cross-generational procedural, with the Sullivans teaming up across the decades to solve cold cases each week, or if something larger is in store.

In the short term, though, Frequency is satisfying, largely due to the committed performances by List (a CW veteran) and Smith.  The pilot doesn’t have time to get bogged down, as the movie did, in parent and child reunion byplay, and the two leads have to establish themselves quickly both in their respective decades and as sharing a rapport with each other, which they do.  Pilot director Brad Anderson, while moving the story along, gives them space to develop a relationship that makes emotional sense.  The other regulars are in trickier positions, since they don’t know that time is changing around them, and Kelley, Mekhi Phifer as Frank’s friend and Raimy’s mentor on the force, and Daniel Bonjour as Raimy’s boyfriend (who doesn’t know her in the new timeline), are mostly used as support.

Even more than most, Frequency will require some time to make clear what it intends to be as a series, beginning with how long it’s going to take to play out the Nightingale storyline.  The show should have a sturdy lead-in from Arrow, which will give it some ratings breathing room (and CW is historically slow to cancel its shows anyway, no matter how low the ratings).  Its signal is strong enough for now to justify staying on the line.

NETWORK FINAL:  Time-Travel More About Emotion Than Spectacle

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."