October 17, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “The Tomorrow People”



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 THE TOMORROW PEOPLE:  Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) is a teenager who also happens to be “homo superior,” aka one of The Tomorrow People.  Their powers include telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy, but because Stephen is The Chosen One–his long-vanished father was the mysterious Obi-Wan Kenobi of the group–he has special additional powers, including the ability to stop time.  While still trying to be a normal son, brother and pal to Marla (guest star Sarah Clarke), Luca (guest star Jacob Kogan), and Astrid (Madeleine Mantock), Stephen hangs out with the cool paranormals in their gentrified abandoned subway station headquarters, complete with supercomputer TIM.  They’re led by John (Luke Mitchell) and his girlfriend Cara (Peyton List)–although Cara and Stephen have a mind-meld thing going and this is CW, so a triangle probably isn’t far away.  Meanwhile, all the Tomorrow People are being hunted by Ultra, a possibly governmental agency/conspiracy run by Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino), who–small world–just happens to be Stephen’s uncle.  Stephen goes to work for Ultra as a spy for the paranormals, and to find out what they know about his father’s whereabouts, under the watchful eye of his murderous uncle.

Episode 2:  The pilot’s shaky start isn’t redressed by Tomorrow People‘s first regular season hour, written by co-creator Phil Klemmer and Co-Executive Producer Jeff Rake (from a story by Klemmer and fellow co-creator Greg Berlanti), and directed by Danny Cannon.  The general storyline picks up where the pilot left off, with Stephen balancing his more-or-less normal home life with his secret new after-school job at Ultra and his superpowered friends, while developing his own abilities.  The episode adds a Tomorrow-Person-of-the-week element, this time involving another troubled teen who’s using his powers to rob banks via his telekinetic abilities; Stephen pretends to be tracking him for Ultra (which wants to kill him), while actually putting him in touch with John and Cara, who’ll keep him safe.

Some of the problems with Tomorrow People may be fixed with time.  Not all of the rules are clear, for example:  the episode makes a big deal about a watch that has some high-tech chip (developed by Stephen’s father) able to block Ultra telepaths from reading Stephen’s mind during interrogations, but then it turns out that neither watch nor chip is needed if Stephen can just fill his mind with a big blocking thought, more or less the same way some people can fool polygraphs.  The show’s writing and acting are deeper issues.  Jedikiah couldn’t be more bluntly fiendish if he were barbecuing kittens in his office, and John isn’t much more interesting on the good-guy side.  Stephen himself is a bland mix of clueless and determined.  It also seems as though the show’s relatively moderate budget has been thrown largely into its teleportation special effects, leaving everything else looking like it’s been done on the cheap.

Not only does CW know how to do these kinds of shows more engagingly, but Tomorrow People‘s own producers do, too:  Berlanti is a co-creator of Arrow, and fellow co-creator Julie Plec (who seems to have little involvement with the series on a day-to-day basis) is the showrunner behind The Vampire Diaries and The OriginalsArrow, of course, also took a while to find its tone–but it had the benefit of a dense DC Comics mythology and a much more varied group of characters.  Tomorrow, concentrated on its teen heroes and evil Jedikiah and his henchpeople, hasn’t given itself much obvious space for development.

Tomorrow People is likely to have plenty of time to improve.  With Arrow as its lead-in, it had a strong start in the ratings last week, and if those numbers don’t collapse entirely, a full-season order seems all but inevitable.  Perhaps some new storylines or featured players (or writers) will liven things up.  So far, the show is feeling all too yesterday.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On… 

PILOT + 1:  Lacks Special Powers

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."