by Coop Cooper
One is a new TV series based on a popular novel trilogy and the other is a true classic TV series resurrected for a new generation. Here are the new, highly-anticipated shows that premiered this week…
“The Magicians” – It seems like a silly concept: A wizarding grad school for young adults who have a talent for magic recruits a guy who doesn’t seem special at first but who may hold the key to their future, but also has the unwanted attention of their powerful enemy. That’s basically the idea behind the “Harry Potter” series and “The Magicians” trilogy of novels makes no bones about the blatant ripoff. However, this new Syfy series based off of a series of novels runs with the ‘adult’ theme by adding both sex, drug use and horror to formula.
A loner obsessed with fictional fantasy books, Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) receives an invitation for an aptitude test which awards him a spot at the Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. His best friend, Julia (Stella Maeve) receives the same opportunity, but fails the test and is prepped to have her memory wiped of the school and dumped back into the normal world. Clever Julia figures out how to circumvent the memory wipe and begins to learn about magic on her own, inadvertently gaining the attention of the school’s nemesis known as The Beast (Charles Mesure). As Quentin tries and constantly fails to fit into the school, he and a few misfit classmates uncover a threat which puts the entire world in danger.
Yes, there are also characters who much like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. There are also differently specialties of magic and ‘houses’ students can join which are much like fraternities and sororities. Besides the obvious Harry Potter tropes, there are also strange elements of the “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and Clive Barker’s underrated cult film “Lord of Illusions” included in the plot. It’s an odd amalgamation that seems corny at first but it might gain a cult following of fans if handled correctly.
I was fairly bored by the pilot until the very end which grabbed my attention so strongly, I had to stick around for the second episode which aired directly afterwards. It’s a horrific scene in which someone – perhaps The Beast – conducts an evil magician’s version of a Columbine-style attack on one of the classrooms. The scene is so scary and unexpected, it departs from the lighter tone established early on in the episode and hints at much darker things to come in the series. Based on that one scene alone, “The Magicians” may be worth checking into.
“The Magicians” airs on the Syfy Channel on Mondays at 8c.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“The X-Files” – This six-episode run of the venerable sci-fi series picks up a few years after the events of the bafflingly substandard stand-alone film “X-Files: I Want to Believe”. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) continues her work as a doctor at a Catholic hospital that specializes in reconstructive surgeries on children. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is still living the life of a cranky, paranoid old hermit out in the woods who thinks the government is out to get him because of his former work with the X-Files cases. When right-wing talk show host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) begins uncovering evidence of a government conspiracy involving UFOs, he brings Mulder and Scully back together to revisit how their work on the X-Files so many years ago may have missed a key clue in the prevention of the conspiracy which could ignite an Armageddon.
By itself, this is a ridiculously terrible episode. It felt more like a parody and a reboot of the original series at times. Anderson looks annoyed to be there and Duchovny appears bored and hungover. Much of what they had accomplished and uncovered during their original X-File cases seems to have been dismissed as irrelevant or non-existent and whatever is happening now is the REAL threat. Once Mulder’s interest rekindles, he goes into full-whacko mode full of half cocked theories and giant leaps to conclusions. Hilariously, Scully reacts to all of this as most normal people would, with exasperated pragmatism, but she’s been through too much already and should know better. Her resistance to the call to action is actually more foolhardy than Mulder’s irrational ramblings. Of course, it all turns out to be real and in the end, the word comes down from Asst. Dir. Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi)… The FBI is reopening the X-Files.
It’s so goofy, but my nostalgia for the original show prevented me from feeling any disappointment. “The X-Files” is back, even if it’s only for a six-episode season. They didn’t change the format, the characters or even the opening and closing credits (with the exception of including Mitch Phillegi in them which is most welcome). It was a clumsy way of restarting the show, but now that it has begun, hopefully it can quickly get back into the groove and end the season with a bang. If it works, we might see more “X-Files” in our future, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. The worst-case scenario would be if it didn’t learn from its previous mistakes, just like “Heroes Reborn” which failed so quickly, I couldn’t bring myself to finish the season.
“The X-Files” airs on FOX on Mondays at 7c.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars