September 24, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Sleepy Hollow”



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 SLEEPY HOLLOW:  Remember Ichabod Crane, from junior high reading lists?  Well, he’s back.  Really back, as in returned from the semi-dead state he’d been in since 1781, when he’d been (more or less) killed in battle after making the infamous Horseman headless, and then placed into suspended animation by his witch wife Katrina (Katia Winter).  Now Ichabod (Tom Mison) has awakened in modern-day Sleepy Hollow to save the world from the Horseman, his fellow three of the Apocalypse (the headless one is Death), and sundry other demons and supernatural irritants from files compiled by–wait for it–George Washington.  His partner:  Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) of the not-so-sleepy-anymore Sleepy Hollow police, who had her own history with the supernatural as a girl with her sister, although it’s not something she likes to think or talk about.  While fighting off the beasties, Ichabod has to learn to adjust to 21st-century life (coffee makers!  black women cops!), while new sheriff Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) mutters that there’s something weird going on there…

Episode 2:  As the pilot implied, the Horsemen will make occasional appearances on Sleepy Hollow (probably during sweeps and at other key points of the season), but the rest of the time, Ichabod and Abbie will fight more day-to-day evil, in this case an evil witch (as opposed to Katrina, who was a good witch–like Oz, you know?) who needed the ashes of the descendants of the judge who’d burned her at the 18th-century stake in order to return to life.  The story was pretty much by the book, but Ken Olin’s direction was nicely atmospheric (there was a neat effect when the cop played by John Cho, seemingly killed in the pilot when his neck was snapped backwards, turned out to be capable of being a Horseman minion despite that infirmity), and the script by co-creators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and fellow Executive Producer Mark Goffman dropped some more hints about the show’s mythology, with long-hidden tunnels unearthed beneath the town and the revelation that Abbie’s sister is preparing herself for armageddon in her asylum.  A ghostly Clancy Brown, as the sheriff (and Abbie’s mentor) who was killed in the pilot, made a brief but welcome appearance to guide Abbie along.

There’s nothing very special about Sleepy Hollow within the supernatural procedural subgenre, but the show is well put together.  Mison has a flair for sly comedy and paranormal pronouncements, and he pairs up well with audience surrogate Beharie.  (It appears that Katrina may also not be completely dead, as her body was never found, which places an obstacle in the inevitable will-they-or-won’t-they for Ichabod and Abbie–which her boorish ex doesn’t.)  The show could very much use a deeper ensemble, and perhaps that will form over time.  But it’s been smartly scheduled, a good fit with lead-in Bones, another mix of bantering partners and gross-out killings.

Sleepy Hollow got off to a great start in the ratings last week, albeit against weak summer competition; tonight’s numbers will tell much more about its prospects.  It’s a disposable but fun piece of business for the FOX line-up.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  If You’re Not A Fan of CBS Sit-Coms or Music/Dance Competitions, This May Be Your Monday 9PM Show



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."