[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “The Whispers” (ABC – MIDSEASON)
The Pitch: “Scary Kids Are Scary.”
Quick Response: A couple people who watched this one early indicated that “The Whispers” was really scary. It's not. At all. It fulfills the mandate that preternaturally mature and solemn children are creepy. No question about that. Particular credit to Abby Ryder Fortson, who expertly plays the creepiest of several creepy kids in the pilot. But this is too much of a slow-burn to actually be scary in the slightest. It's a bit like BBC America's “Intruders” in that respect. But really, it's a lot like a lot of things you've seen before and it's like so many of those things that nothing feels fresh enough to be shocking. There's a lot of “Invasion” and “V” in the DNA here. And because it comes courtesy of Amblin TV, it's impossible not to think of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and even “Extant.” There's some insinuation about a big threat, but in the pilot, it's just some airborne presence named “Drill” playing games with kids and even if those games are leading to some unpleasantness and a couple deaths, there isn't even a hint at an endgame that would have me worried. The narrative is really diffuse and one minute we're watching Lily Rabe's FBI child behavior expert beginning to develop suspicions, the next minute we're off in a poorly depicted African desert with a stereotypical warlord and then we're wasting WAY too much time on Milo Ventimiglia being groggy and disoriented in a hospital bed. At only 40 minutes, “The Whispers” doesn't build to anything of significance and ABC would be smart to give this one a two-hour premiere, unless the second episode is similarly low affect. But as it stands, this pilot is just “People start to get worried and creepy kids get creepy with Drill.” And enough already with the cutaways to the wind blowing through shrubbery, because for all of the things “The Whispers” reminded me of, the last thing you want me mentioning is “The Happening” and that's what I thought of a few times. Pilot director Mark Romanek obviously deserves some credit for the strong work with the kids and he delivers some very striking visuals, but he's a helmer prone to letting pacing lag if he becomes enamored with a camera set-up or a filter and Soo Hugh's script definitely doesn't force the urgency. Kristen Connolly is replacing Brianna Brown, who played one of the main roles in the pilot and while I think that hints at a more interesting take on the character, Brown was just fine with what she was asked to do here.
Desire To Watch Again: Meh. I went from slightly intrigued to annoyed and frustrated by “Intruders” between the first and second episode. So while I'm absolutely interested in a second episode of “The Whispers,” I could be ready to check out just as quickly if the series can't advance beyond creepy kids and Milo Ventimiglia looking confused and muttering.
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