Science. What is it good for? As the writers of Fox’s dead-on-arrival new sci-fi program Second Chance understand it, absolutely anything. Like magic in the Harry Potter world or the Force in the Star Wars universe, science functions as an amorphous, ill-defined presence through which whatever a crucial moment demands can be instantaneously made real. In the not-so-distant future of Second Chance, science can locate anything on Earth, make gods of men, undo death, and even zoom-and-enhance security-camera footage. In short, it’s a cheap device, a lazy writer’s best friend, and unfortunately entirely typical of the level of thought and overall effort put into this undercooked thriller.
Simultaneously a boring superhero show, a boring serial-killer crime procedural, and a boring sci-fi experiment, Second Chance whiffs three times in a game-ending strikeout. A malformed descendant of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, Minority Report (the televised success of which undoubtedly played a role in Fox’s decision to green-light this dud), and Tarsem Singh’s recent film Self/less, the show takes the time-tested premise of consciousness passing from one body to another and sends it in the most banal direction possible. Second Chance offers none of sci-fi’s wonder, crime drama’s edge, or superhero action’s thrills, instead grazing the surface of all three without ever hitting anything satisfying.
Jimmy Pritchard begins with the pouchy, aging face of esteemed character actor Phillip Baker Hall, though Hall relieves himself of this role in mercifully short order. A lifelong cop recently retired following a scandal outing him as corrupt, Pritchard is murdered by a pair of mysterious thugs ransacking his son’s house when he pops in for a visit. A pair of tech-genius twins named Mary and Otto (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kalyan, respectively) salvage his body and make use of their vast corporation called Lookinglass to transfer his mind into the muscular, camera-ready body of Pacific Rim‘s Robert Kazinsky — using science. Who this body belonged to before it played host to Pritchard’s consciousness is never explained, nor how he ended up with generic punch-strong/jump-high superpowers. Nor why Pritchard would be plucked from the great beyond to be their guinea pig, outside of the simple answer of science. (He’s got a special rare DNA… thing.) Also never made clear: why a second copy of the Kazinsky-body rests suspended in a vat of blue liquid, how this technological breakthrough will enable Mary to beat back the cancer shortening her lifespan, and why two people with as little chemistry as Pritchard and Mary would fall in love. But of course, the answers are, in order, science, science, and just because.
Miraculously granted the gift of a narrow escape from the icy clutches of Death, Pritchard does what any man would do after waking up in a rejuvenated body and hits up his prostitute gal pal for a quick spin in the new ride. Once he’s banged to satisfaction, it’s time to reconnect with his estranged son Duval (Tim DeKay), a fellow cop who was none too pleased with his pop-pop’s whole planting-evidence scandal, even though his dad was just doing what he had to to keep this town safe, dammit. Pritchard knows better than to reveal the whole situation to Duval at once, easing him in by claiming to be his half-brother and offering to assist him in apprehending serial killers around town. Reluctantly, incredibly, Duval takes him up on this offer.
For a TV show that takes two fairly meaty paragraphs to adequately summarize, there’s really not much of anything going on. The direction doesn’t have sufficient flair to charge any real electricity into the heroic action sequences, leaving the sci-fi and crime angles to pick up the slack. The sci-fi dimension of the show has only the most fleeting interest in the meaningful ramifications of technological advances, passing the slack to the procedural buried deep under the diluted genre nonsense. The killer-thriller sequences play like Hannibal as reimagined by someone whose favorite food is toast, and attempt to pass the slack once more to, it turns out, nothing. It’s difficult even to isolate a self-contained saving grace that can make slogging through the first four episodes bearable, outside of closely monitoring how frequently Kazinsky’s English accent surfaces in dialogue.
As it currently stands, Second Chance is on the short path to cancellation, destined to open up a slot in Fox’s programming lineup in a month or two. Chaff like this performs a noble service in making audiences more appreciative of the freshman shows with half an idea of what the hell they’re doing, which this mishmash of vagaries does not. Fortunately, this show is uniquely easy to retool. All Fox needs to do is blow up the premise, hire a new showrunner, cast new actors, shift gears entirely, and then when weekly viewers demand some answers, just blame it on science.