RogerBW's Blog

Second Chance, season 1 17 August 2016

2016 science fiction crime drama, 11 episodes. Jimmy Pritchard is a 75-year-old, corrupt, disgraced, but unrepentant former sheriff. When he's murdered, secretive tech billionaire twins restore him to life, youth and extreme vitality (as a side effect of their own plans). Formerly known as Frankenstein, The Frankenstein Code and Lookinglass.

What do you do if you get a second chance at life? Apparently, mostly the same things you did before. It's quite explicit that Pritchard was happy to manipulate evidence when he "knew" who the criminal was; now he's apparently not willing to do that any more, but he shows no feelings of regret. What he does now apparently regret, and try to fix, is his poor relationship with his son (a straight-arrow FBI agent). Robert Kazinsky is decent enough at portraying the sudden animal vitality (he'd make a great Mr Hyde), but he doesn't add any real subtlety to the pretty straightforward scripts, and never convinces as a younger version of the man played by Philip Baker Hall in flashbacks. (Yeah, maybe it's Hall who should have conformed to Kazinsky's acting, but it's Hall we meet first.)

The twins are rather more interesting: they're the co-founders of a creepy Google-alike, one of them is much less socially competent than the other, and they have a high-density "twin language" for communicating with each other; it's a shame they get relatively little screen time, as the show prefers to concentrate on Pritchard who's presumably meant to be the "relatable" figure for the audience to identify with. In general, the portrayal of the relationship between the twins is excellent; they're also played by Dilshad Vadsaria (whom I've seen in various small TV roles) and Adhir Kalyan (whom I haven't), and nobody ever makes a point of their non-whiteness, which is refreshing. Tim DeKay as the FBI agent son is also impressive.

But the plots, eh, the plots are awfully generic and could be attached to most other procedural shows without major surgery. ("He's an FBI agent. He's an undead super-tough super-strong ex-cop. They fight crime!") Much as with the Minority Report TV series and Almost Human before it, an interesting premise is apparently regarded as all that Fox viewers can take, and the actual implementation can be farmed out to the usual stable of writers who rehash the usual cop-show tropes. There are attempts at being dark, but they never seem to have the courage of their convictions; the better moments here are the comedic and romantic ones.

To be fair things improve sharply in the second half of the season, when they clearly got in the good writers, and we start to get the Google-alike being regarded as the creepy surveillance monster it actually is, not to mention finally some thoughts about the ethics of resurrection that should have been mentioned in episode 2 at the latest. For the audience it was mostly too little and too late.

The series had its episode order cut even before broadcast began, and with steadily declining ratings never had much chance of renewal. If the producers had taken it to SyFy rather than Fox in the first place, they'd have had a smaller budget but might not have had to burn off the initial audience goodwill with all the procedural stuff, and would certainly have had a network more willing to ask its viewers to think. At least a little bit.

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See also:
Minority Report

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