June 3, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Stitchers”


STITCHERS:  Monday 9PM on ABCFamily – Change the Channel

These are high times for those who can’t get enough of TV shows about young women who solve crimes by entering the memories of the recently deceased  Even as iZombie nears its season finale next week, ABCFamily’s new STITCHERS is telling a variation on the same tale.

The obvious difference between them–the absence of zombies on Stitchers–isn’t as noticeable as you’d think.  Indeed, of the two heroines, iZombie‘s Olivia is a relative flood of human emotions, absorbing the traits of the people whose brains she’s munching, while Stitchers‘ Kirsten Clark (Emma Ishta) is the one who suffers from a shortage of humanity.  We’re told that she has “temporal displasia,” a condition that renders her unable to recognize the passage of time, so that for her a minute might as well be a week, but it’s not clear why this would also prevent her from registering emotion, which gives her a near-constant robotic affect.  She doesn’t seem to have a blindness for social norms so much as a angry distaste for them, which makes her a less expressive version of half the Aspergian detectives on the air these days.

Kirsten’s condition also doesn’t explain why it would make her the ideal candidate for the top-secret government Stitchers program, which preserves certain brains for a strictly limited time, and with the help of a water tank, a molded chair, and a tight-fitting black jumpsuit, allows users access to flashes of the preserved brains’ memories.  None of that has anything obvious to do with experiencing the passage of time, so it feels as though series creator Jeffrey Alan Schechter, who wrote the pilot (directed by Todd Holland), started with the memory-traveling idea, then worked backwards to come up with some mumbo-jumbo to explain it–and did even that sloppily.

That kind of sloppiness is endemic in the pilot script.  The story starts with Kirsten’s mean-girl Cal Tech housemate Camille (Allison Scagliotti) accusing her of interfering with a high-tech idea and throwing out of the house, making her strong dislike for Kirsten abundantly clear, but no sooner does Kirsten tell her about the Stitcher program and the need to track down some unexploded bombs left by the corpse of the week than she’s lending her laptop and joining in the search.  Back at headquarters, it’s a plot point that the team, headed by Maggie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who’s been in this territory before on Eureka), throws Kirsten into the water tank with no medical or psychological examination at all, but it’s still silly.  The other regulars are cliches:  nice-guy and potential romantic interest Cameron (Kyle Harris), and nerdy Indian techie Linus (Ritesh Rajan).  Inevitably, there’s also a mythology backstory:  Kirsten’s birth father abandoned her as a child to live with a family friend, who is found murdered at the start of the episode (only Kirsten realizes it’s not a suicide), and the climactic reveal is that the two men were the inventors of the Stitcher technology.

It’s all too easy to do a side-by-side comparison of iZombie and Stitchers, and the result isn’t to the new show’s advantage.  Stitchers isn’t nearly as freshly written or imaginative.  In addition, the decision to make Kirsten such a flat, mostly hostile presence (although the indication is that as she becomes exposed to more memories, she’ll gradually become more comfortable with emotion) makes Stitchers hard to like, despite Ishta’s interesting angular presence.  Neither the rudimentary episodic plot nor the familiar mythology provide much to feel hopeful about going forward.  Stitchers will need to find another gear if it’s to accumulate any memories of its own.

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."