The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…
THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)
Frequency (Wednesday on CW)
If No Tomorrow represents the new CW, Frequency is more indicative of its past. On the surface, it’s a somewhat goofy, mostly derivative procedural wrapped up in genre trappings. In look and feel, it couldn’t be more generic. The one thing it has going for it is the sheer audacity of the premise.
In Frequency, Peyton List plays Raimy Sullivan, a cop with a chip on her shoulder because of her dad Frank (Riley Smith), another cop who died while undercover 20 years ago. She’s got her father’s old ham radio in her garage. One day, lightning strikes the house and the radio powers on for the first time in years. Raimy begins to have a conversation with the stranger whose broadcast she picks up. As it turns out, that stranger is Frank Sullivan, communicating with his daughter from 20 years in the past, using the same radio she’s using. Yes, the premise of this show is “girl talks to her younger father on a magic time radio”. The thing is, he’s supposed to die the next day.
Now, I should probably warn you – I’m basically going to spoil this entire episode, so if this sounds appealing to you, stop reading and go watch the episode (it’s streaming on Canadian Netflix).
So, if you could communicate into the past with your dad, who is on the verge of death, what would you do? You would, of course, warn him, even though every single piece of time travel related media ever created has warned you against doing so. And so she does. And he lives. Woohoo! Daddy’s saved, and the future is changed, and now it turns out that he lived a long(er) and happy life with his daughter before dying in 2011 (hey, 15 extra years ain’t bad). It’s all good, right? Except it’s not, because Raimy’s fiancé Daniel no longer has any memory of her. Her mother (who was Daniel’s nurse after he was in a car accident) was supposed to introduce the two of them, only she didn’t, because her mother’s now dead, a victim of the “Nightingale” serial killer who preyed on nurses in 1996. Does any of this… sound familiar? It should, because this exact narrative device was used the day before on the 3rd season premiere of The Flash. And the day before that on the series premiere of Timeless. And it was used two weeks later on the 2nd episode of Legends of Tomorrow’s 3rd season. As I said in my Timeless review, I love time travel, but this is just ridiculous. Now, there’s no way that the writers of all 4 shows could have known that this would happen (although they are all filmed in Vancouver and 3 of them are specifically about time travel), but this “twist” stops being shocking after the first couple of times (and let’s be real, time travel stories have been telling variations of this concept since they were first conceived). I know that for the characters, it must be particularly jarring and horrifying to have people in their life just… erased, but it’s not much fun watching the characters react this way. What did you think was going to happen? YOU CHANGED THE PAST! If I had the chance to time travel and I did, I would do it knowing full well that I was basically destroying the present. I can’t empathize with these stupid characters when they’re aghast that MENDLING WITH THE TIME STREAM screwed things up. Anyway, maybe that’s just me.
This show is fine. It’s not aggressively bad, it’s just a little bland and uninspired (except for that dumb radio thing). Want to see Riley work with her dad to hunt down the Nightingale killer in order to save her mother’s life? Check out the show, but make it quick. If Peyton List’s other starring roles are anything to go by – Windfall (13 episodes), Big Shots (11 episodes), FlashForward (22 episodes), and The Tomorrow People (22 episodes) – Frequency’s days are numbered. Peyton better start looking for another show to destroy, for she has become List, the destroyer of shows.