NBC’s Believe continues the tired (and at this point, fruitless) trend of stamping J.J. Abrams name on a series that he’ll have little to no involvement in hopes of luring in Lost/Alias/Star Trek fan boys who may still view him as a god; though, given his spotty track record, I think that ship has sailed.
But, in the case of Believe, Abrams name is an after thought (promotionally speaking), given that Oscar-winner/Gravity director Alfonso Cauron helmed the pilot and his Oscar win could not have come at a better time for NBC.
Still, despite the big names attached to the show and Cauron behind the camera, Believe plays it safe and instead of being adventurous or intriguing, it’s a sentimental bore.
The good news about Believe is that the first ten minutes are quite good. Featuring a car accident and a prison break, there’s some great edge-of-your-seat action and you can actually appreciate the fact that an incredibly talented director is at work here. However, once the ball gets rolling, it becomes an indistinctive sci-fi procedural that crosses the line into cheesy territory more often than not.
Believe, in a nutshell, is about a young girl named Bo (Johnny Seqouyah–fun name) with vague supernatural abilities who is being pursued by an evil, shadow organization (led by Kyle MacLachlan, given little to do in the pilot) and being protected by a collection of do-gooders led by Milton Winter (dumb name), played by Delroy Lindo in a distractingly silly performance, lacking any ounce of gravitas you might hope to see from a character like this. They round up a death row inmate (who swears he’s been wrongly accused) named Tate to help them keep the girl safe.
From there, the show becomes a bad buddy-cop comedy with the unlikely pairing of Tate and Bo sparking lots of cutesy sparring dialogue which is supposed to be amusing but plays really bad for Tate who seems wholly unlikable the entire hour. The banter subsides momentarily for a climatic showdown in an abandoned building that features Bo using her mysterious powers to attack the bad guys with birds. I’ve seen some praise this sequence, but it’s cheesy, plain and simple. Cuaron is great, but after the opening scene he phones it in and seems all too content in delivering some real hokey crap to our television screen.
The tone of Believe is one of grand self-importance, but ends up feeling like an overly sappy episode of Heroes, or (even worse), an episode of Fox’s Touch. As Tate, Jake McLaughlin gives a jokey performances and doesn’t contain an ounce of charisma. Seqouyah is perfectly okay and I could see her blossoming into a really strong child actor; the material just doesn’t do her any favors. Furthermore, we’re treated to a depressing glimpse at the sort of nauseating procedural Believe is going to operate as on a week to week basis, and it’s not pretty. It’s pretty painful, actually. Much of the pilot episode focuses on Bo’s mission to encourage a downtrodden young doctor after seeing his future or something in an earlier scene. It plays like sci-fi Hallmark and once again, very much like Touch. You’ll be rolling your eyes by the end of it….at least I was. Maybe having warm-fuzzies heavy-handedly fed to you is fun for you, but I’m not a huge fan.
In the closing moments, we get clued in on a few big reveals. The first is about Kyle MacLachlan’s character and if I had cared enough about him, I probably would have guessed it. The second is about Tate and I doubt there are many viewers that won’t see it coming from a mile away.
Despite my negativity, Believe isn’t a flat-out terrible pilot, it’s just one with a laundry list of glaring flaws. The type of show it’s aspiring to be isn’t a very ambitious one and could become boring and trite very quickly. I’ll give it another episode or two to grow into itself, but this is an awfully unappealing first impression.
After you watch it (premiering Monday night at 10 eastern/9 central on NBC before moving to Sundays at 9pm) come back and take the poll to let me know what you think!