Monday, June 29, 2015

Television Review: The Whispers

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 Stars  (after 3 episodes)

Bottom Line: It's not a bad show, but it is less than engaging as it fails to take advantage of its creepy premise.

ABC's new Summer series The Whispers is based on / "inspired by" Ray Bradbury's short story "Zero Hour" and follows a silent invasion of Earth where some unseen entity is using children to do its bidding.  Impressionable children under the age of ten are selected and contacted by someone know as Drill.  He communicates with them through lights and other electrical instruments and gives them instructions that often lead to malicious acts.  There is also a mysterious person who keeps showing up in the vicinity of these kids (we find out eventually that he is pilot Sean Bennigan who's plane went missing several months earlier), and he becomes linked to the crimes that the children are committing.

The premise for this series is somewhat interesting and it has some potential to develop into a decent sci fi entry, but I have to admit that after three episodes my attention has quickly waned because of the show's rather unengaging, by-the-numbers delivery.  The premise has a definite creepiness about it and we have seen it developed rather well in other attempts such as The Children of the Corn (the first movie), Torchwood: The Children of Earth and even the Ray Bradbury Theater adaptation of "Zero Hour" (which you can watch on YouTube at this link).  But The Whispers lacks any vision to play up the horror elements at its core, or it was sufficiently scrubbed of that vision by network executives looking to appeal to the broadest audience.  Instead, it takes the procedural angle (with plenty of soap-opera assides thrown in) and it focuses on the adults trying to figure out what is going on with the kids.  And it also piles mystery upon mystery (and throws in the all-too-tired flashbacks) instead getting down to telling a story, as has become the norm with broadcast network sci fi entries in their ongoing attempt to find the next Lost.

I don't consider The Whispers a bad series, it has just failed to engage me thus far and I'm not certain how much more time (if any) I will give it.  It has a decent cast (and its nice to series Heroes alum Milo Ventimiglia back on a sci fi show, even if he does walk around with a perennial wtf look on his face), and the production values are good.  But it just seems to waste the potential of its premise by pushing the genre element to the background behind procedural and soap opera storylines (I am reminded of FlashForward, Alcatraz, No Ordinary Family, and other broadcast networks entries that similarly buried their genre elements).  And with so many options out there for original sci fi and fantasy (you can see a list of over 60 active/returning/upcoming shows at this link), is it worth investing the time in something like The Whispers that seems to be skirting around giving us the good sci fi we are looking for?

I may end up giving this one a few more episodes (and I admit that Wayward Pines finally has me hooked after it meandered about for for half its season), or it may end up just getting lost in the shuffle.

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