Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Is Fox's SLEEPY HOLLOW just a supernatural FRINGE?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Fox's new hit supernatural drama (although viewers have dipped to 7.8m since the premiere's 10.1m) was created by Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, who co-created Fox's Fringe with JJ Abrams. And the two shows share some similarities, which are obscured quite well, but become increasingly apparent when you stop to think about...

  • Both shows involve a protagonist who hasn't been active in the modern world for a period of time and is now something of a misfit. Fringe's Walter Bishop spent 15-years in an insane asylum and is a bit of a loony, while Sleepy Hollow's Ichabod Crane spent 200-years asleep underground and is a fish-out-of-water in the modern world.
  • Sleepy leans on the cop show tradition of having a male and female partnership at its centre, while Fringe went for a less common and trickier trio (genius Walter, estranged son Peter, tough FBI agent Olivia Dunham). That's a clear difference, but the fourth episode of Sleepy suggests that Abby's sister Jennifer is going to be an important part of the story moving forward. So that might give Sleepy a similar trio of heroes; especially as two of them are also blood relatives. Only this time it's estranged siblings instead of an estranged parent and child...
  • This time it's the heroine's sister who's spent time in a mental asylum, not the hero's father.
  • The villains in Sleepy appear to be a secretive cult doing terrible things around town, hoping to usher in the apocalypse according to scripture. That's similar to Fringe's own use of a "science terrorists" in season 1 (although their 'Bible' was written by Walter), whom we later learned wanted to collapse two ancient alternative universes to create a new and opulent third.
  • The heroes of Sleepy have a black boss, doing a clich├ęd gruff performance. The Wire's Lance Reddick provided that character type in Fringe, and in Sleepy we get Evolution's Orlando Jones. I demand a refund!
  • Ichabod and Walter are both isolated from their wives, but in both cases it feels like time and death won't be a barrier for long.
  • Ichabod and Abby have an eccentric-looking headquarters in what's essentially a disused "basement", which evokes memories of Walter Bishop's Harvard lab. Only minus a cow.
Those are just a handful of similarities that have crossed my mind after four episodes of Sleepy Hollow. Obviously a great many TV shows rely on the same basic ideas and tropes, but given the fact Kurtzman and Orci were directly involved in both shows I think it's not complete coincidence. They seem to have cherry-picked ideas that worked well for Fringe, and have applied them to their loose idea of bringing the Ichabod Crane and Headless Horseman characters to the modern world.

There even seems to be a touch of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes to Crane's character at times, and Kurtzman/Orci co-wrote Star Trek into Darkness (that starred Cumberbatch as its big villain). Oh well, pop-culture's a fun stew everyone's encouraged to dip into.

What do you think? Have I been over-thinking the similarities between these Kurtzman/Orci genre shows, or do you think Fringe is indeed being used as a rough template? And how fun will it be when John Noble (Walter Bishop), appears on the show soon? Yes, that's happening.