Sleepy Hollow, Fall’s Messy Miracle

Sleepy Hollow was, at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV panel I sat in on at DragonCon, easily singled out as the new show most likely to get the axe first.

It has already avoided that ignoble distinction thanks to the miserable Lucky 7 (and many other now cancelled shows) but, as it’s become by far the biggest breakout hit of the year and has already earned a second season, it’s fair to say we were off by quite a bit. And yeah, sometimes it’s hard to call these things from a trailer and synopsis alone, but everything, especially how little everyone was looking for a modern twist on Washington Irving’s story, seemed to indicate Sleepy Hollow would be a mess. And it is!

But it’s one of the most wonderful, focused, purely happy-making messes on the face of this Earth. As it approaches the halfway point in its 13 episode first season, Sleepy Hollow has proven itself to be the strange bastard child of National Treasure and Lovecraft we didn’t know we needed. This wonderful mutation has yet to meet a strange footnote in American history it couldn’t turn into an intriguing hour of high-adventure. (Roanoke?!? Already?!?) Right down to its uber-competent warrior/genius Ichabod Crane, played brilliantly by huge star-to-be-just-you-wait Tom Mison as what essentially amounts to the more cuddly twin brother of Jack Davenport’s befuddled, scruffy Commodore Norrington from the second Pirates film, Sleepy Hollow has next to nothing to do with anything Washington Irving wrote.

But fear not… this show lacks not for inspiration! I like to imagine in the writers’ room everyone sits next to a stack of books about American Legends and Folklore and, as they leaf through the books, they shout “That sounds cool, PUT IT IN THE SHOW!”

“All of it?”

“YES, ALL OF IT!”

If the 2013 freshman class of television shows were new students at a university, Sleepy Hollow would be that kid who seemed, from everything about them you could see (their transcripts, their essay), to be not so much cut out for this. And then they walk in the door and you can tell that nothing you knew ahead of time prepared you for what you see before you now: this kid clearly spent a great summer between high school and college reading Lovecraft and Stephen King, watching the best buddy cop movies, quoting important Bible verses, adopting a smooth British accent for no reason other than it sounds cool, and having an all-around ball. It should all be insufferable, but, as everyone watches the kid walk in the room and sighs contentedly, you realize that this kid is going to do just fine if he can iron out some of the wrinkles in that new image (like the way every episode ends with the demon handily defeated; at some point ONE of these demons has to be able to wreak some havoc for more than ten minutes). No show seemed less promising coming in, and no show seems more promising now that we’ve gotten a peak inside the strange minds that are putting this show, the one show I’d tell you you HAVE to jump on if you haven’t yet, together.

Next Page: Sleepy Hollow‘s Dreary Mirror Image