March 17, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Believe”


BELIEVE:  Sunday 9PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on BELIEVE:  10-year old Bo Adams (Johnny Sequoyah) is one special little girl, with superpowers that include telekinesis and the ability to foretell the future and read people’s minds.  Her powers, like those of so many Chosen Ones before her, can be used to help, but they also make her vulnerable to villains who would use her for nefarious purposes–in this case, tycoon Roman Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan).  Luckily for Bo, Milton Winter (Delroy Lindo), a former colleague of Skouras’s, is determined to protect Bo with a team of like-minded heroes, including Channing (Jamie Chung), and now Tate (Jake McLaughlin), a former death row inmate freed by Winter.  Tate seems an odd choice to join a squad of good guys, but what Winter knows and Tate doesn’t is that Tate is actually Bo’s father.

Episode 2:  Series co-creator Alfonso Cuaron wasn’t around to direct the second hour of Believe (Omar Madha did the honors), Sienna Guillory’s assassin character is gone, and the show has gone through two showrunners since the pilot, including the other series co-creator Mark Friedman, before arriving at Jonas Pate (who wrote the episode, along with Bobby Arnot).  This episode was likely a much more accurate guide to what the series is going to look like.  The results, unfortunately, were deeply unpromising.

The new Believe is a more conventional paranormal adventure show, and the plotting is startlingly bad.  Cards were quickly put on the table about Bo’s powers, Winter’s CIA background and Skouras’s ambition to turn her into a weapon, as government agent Elizabeth Farrell (Trieste Kelly Dunn, the deputy from Banshee, here seemingly made up to look like Megan Boone on The Blacklist) was put on the case and given a quick tour of Skouras’s operation.  She issued an amber alert for Bo and Tate, which resulted at one point in Tate holding back a train-car full of angry adults by–I am not making this up–poking his finger into the pocket of his jacket and pretending it was a gun.  Meanwhile, the show jumped to the cliche of having Bo manipulate dice at an Atlantic City casino so they could raise some money, and then became cringe-inducingly worse when Bo almost instantly handed over the $30K they’d made to the ailing 5-year old son of a kindly waitress.  A plot twist in the last 5 minutes, in which the cops who “arrested” Bo and Tate turned out to be Winter and Channing in disguise seemingly as a prank, was idiotic.

Bo as a character is maddeningly inconsistent–she has no idea what milkshakes, ID or the game of craps are, but she has no trouble with “on the house”–and her ability to access her powers seems mostly random.  Neither Winter nor Skouras are more than cardboard bad and good guys.  The one part of Believe that does work is the genuine chemistry between McLaughlin and Sequoyah, and that could be something to build on–but the show’s gimmicky structure (the pair has to get to a different safe house every night, eluding capture despite nationwide alerts) and flat writing won’t make that easy.

Believe got off to a decent start in its “preview” run last Monday, but now it won’t have The Voice as a lead-in, and it finds itself facing ABC’s sudden powerhouse Resurrection.  If the series is to survive, it’s going to have to improve markedly–and quickly.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Headed In the Wrong Direction


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."