When Remakes Go Right

Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen episode 1.01, “Pilot,” of The CW’s The Tomorrow People, this post may contain spoilers.

Full Disclosure: My dad came to the U.S. back in the 1960s, and, consequently, my older siblings and I grew up watching British TV programs whenever they were on our local PBS. It was a steady diet of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, BlackadderFawlty Towers, and murder mysteries where everyone’s upper lips were terribly stiff. There were all manner of shows we heard about from our dad, which was one of the reasons I was so excited when Doctor Who started up again in 2005. (My dad told me stories of being scared witless by some episodes when he was a young teenager.)

The original title card used stencil font. Because nothing says “futuristic” like stencil font.

One of the TV shows that my dad didn’t tell us about was The Tomorrow People, which started after he moved here. That’s why I jumped at the chance to pick up the first volume at my local public library last winter. My dad and I were both intrigued by the concept and settled in to watch the first episode.

Then we gave it a second episode. My mum came in and watched a third episode with us, and then I returned it to the library the next day.

So it was, with much trepidation, that I tuned in last night to The CW’s remake of The Tomorrow People. Would it have the same god-awful special effects as the original? The same vague, difficult to follow plot, with a villain portrayed by Poor Man’s Brian Blessed? The same unsettling relationship between the young adults with superhuman abilities and their massive supercomputer, Tim?

And I was pleasantly surprised. (By the way, the answers to my above concerns, in order, are: Not really. No. Kind of.)

The core four of the cast – Robbie Amell as Stephen Jameson, Peyton List as Cara Coburn, Luke Mitchell as John Young, and Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer Jedikiah Price – play off each other well. List and Mitchell, as the veterans of the Tomorrow People  – or Homo Superior – have a subtle but believable chemistry, while Mitchell and Pellegrino’s confrontation in the final third of the episode was brief but hinted at a potentially gripping backstory.

Well, now that you mention it…

And Amell managed to strike a balance between bitter and befuddled, without straying into whiny teenager territory.

Ba-dum-CHA. Also, *ouch*.

However, I reserve the right to do an ‘I told you so’ dance when Stephen’s mother, Marla, as played by Sarah Clarke, proves to be evil. Although it remains to be seen whether Jason Dohring’s recurring character will use his smirk for good or evil.

But more importantly, this American remake appears to have taken a note from other successful remakes (e.g. The Office, Being Human) and is avoiding a word-for-word copy. (See: The I.T. Crowd, with Joel McHale; Coupling, with Colin Ferguson; Kath and Kim, with Molly Shannon and Selma Blair.) The CW’s take keeps the spirit of the original – young adults, saddled with telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation, and hunted by a shadowy organization, intent on both studying and stopping them – while stripping out the elements that didn’t work in the original: The mysticism, the spiritualism and the unsettling feeling of a pedophilic supercomputer.

 

 

And while an observant viewer might notice the similarities between The Tomorrow People and it’s Wednesday night neighbor, Arrow (a favorite of ours here at WWFTP), what with the absent, enigmatic father; the reluctant hero son; the highly capable second in command; the loyal gal pal; and the possibly evil father figure, I think, cliché aside, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I can’t say whether the pilot’s promise will pan out, but I’m willing to give it four episodes, which is certainly more than I can say for the original.

I’m going to guess Lucifer approves of my decision.

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