Do you prefer your supernatural dramas flavored with liberal-humanist spirituality and eerie god-children? Then you’re in luck, weirdo! Fox may have ended Touch, the rambling Kiefer Sutherland-fronted drama that finally answered the question nobody was asking: ”What would it look like if we mashed up pantheistic mysticism and Mercury Rising?” But this month sees the arrival of two shows operating in the same territory: NBC’s Believe and ABC’s Resurrection. There are all the familiar tropes of the sub-sub-subgenre: mysterious events and sad-faced father figures, people who speak exclusively in cryptic statements and refuse to answer any questions coherently.
Believe has the stronger pedigree — co-created by recently crowned Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón and produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Cuarón directed the pilot, and deftly adapts his talent for long-take staging to the small screen. The opening car-crash sequence is made to look like it’s all one shot — shades of Children of Men! Cuarón is such a great director that it takes you a little while to realize that you’re watching one of the best-directed hours of bad TV.
Believe focuses on Bo (newcomer Johnny Sequoyah), a young girl with the powers of everything. Telekinesis? Precognition? Avian Attack? Check, check, triple check. She can read minds, but only the nice things. (”You know why you were crying? You remembered you were good once.”) Bo is special, we’re told early and often. She’s at the center of a dispute between a mysterious group of well-funded nice people led by Winter (Delroy Lindo) and an equally mysterious group of well-funded evil people led by Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan). The nice people want to protect her, so they free death-row inmate Tate (Jake McLaughlin) and tell him to watch over the girl. ”Why me?” asks Tate. ”Because I believe in you,” responds Winter. (Someone said ”believe” on Believe: Drink!)
In the pilot, Bo uses her powers to help a melancholy doctor (Rami Malek), and you get the sense that the series’ structure is basically The Fugitive, with a new guest-star problem to solve each week. Sequoyah is an appealing presence, doing what she can with an impossible wonder-kid role. And Cuarón is incapable of creating a boring shot. But he won’t direct every episode. The only actor in the pilot who seems to be having any fun is Sienna Guillory — so good in several mediocre Resident Evil movies — as a hitwoman. Guillory won’t appear in any more episodes, so this is one of those curious cases where the pilot doesn’t tell you much about the series. B-