Should I Choose to ‘Believe’ in NBC’s New Sci-Fi Drama?

Believe (Photo: NBC)
Believe (Photo: NBC)

Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams have teamed up for NBC’s new drama Believe. Is this science fiction tinkering of The Fugitive worth checking out?

Show

Believe debuted Monday at 10pm and takes up its actual timeslot of Sundays at 9pm with its next episode.

Premise

Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) is a 12-year-old girl with special powers: some telekenesis, mind-reading, and Carrie-a-la-Tippi Hedren tendencies. Naturally, there’s some big bad named Skouras (Kyle McLachlan) who wants to do some bad science to her, but there’s also a shadow group led by Delroy Lindo who wants to protect her. That group has enlisted/abducted former death-row inmate Tate (Jake McLaughlin)—who may or may not have been wrongly accused—in protecting Bo from Skouras and his henchpeople.

Pedigree

The show was created by Alfonso Cuarón, who recently won the Oscar for directing Gravity. He directed and co-wrote the pilot. The show is produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, which could be a plus or a minus (Abrams seems to be batting about .500, though slightly lower on NBC).

What Works

The pilot was just goofy enough to avoid taking itself too seriously (I’m looking at you, Intelligence). Though we didn’t get to see Bo using her telekinetic powers too much, the special effects surrounding what we did see were believable. When Bo used a scream tactic that caused birds to fly in and frenzy themselves around an adversary, it was super creepy without being particularly violent or gross.1

What Doesn’t Work

The pilot is SUPER CLUNKY. The show is basically a version of The Fugitive or Route 66, with Bo and Tate traveling/running away from place to place, helping people along the way. Or as Winter (Lindo) said: “having adventures.” As with a lot of sci-fi, world-building and establishing rules is required, but finessing those points into the story is an option. Granted, Cuarón is not the strongest writer (there’s a reason Gravity wasn’t nominated in that category), but surely his co-writer or someone could have given the script a glance to eliminate some THUDs.

Verdict

This isn’t a great show, but it could be fun once it figures out where it is going and what it wants to accomplish. The show did well in its debut, and if the audience follows the show to Sunday, NBC could have a solid performer on its hands. The show feels like a CBS procedural, which makes this a bit of a coup (coo?) for the Peacock.

  1. Because: birds. Yick.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv