Overthinking SLEEPY HOLLOW

sleepy-hollow-partners

We won’t mince words. On the list of things we hate in this world, right below stuff like war, famine, and NSA spying comes the writing of the comedy team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

What? They aren’t supposed to be funny? Oh gee. Sorry, boys and girls, but absolutely nothing they’ve ever written has made the proverbial lick of sense to the TVWriter™ minions. Our brains just aren’t capable of making the same connections Kurtzman’s and Orci’s do…and, honestly, we’re glad.

Their latest hit creation. (think renewed-for-another-season-already) SLEEPY HOLLOW, has left us gagging with its inconsistencies, plot holes, and total lack of characterization. Like everybody else in the world, we luvs validation, so you can imagine how thrilled we were the other day when we found this sensation article:

by Stokes

Out of the new TV shows I’ve been watching this fall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is probably my favorite. Naturally, it’s been struggling to find an audience. Sleepy Hollow, on the other hand, which so far I would describe as “adequate,” and enjoyable more for the ways that it is bad than for the ways that it is good, has already been picked up for a second season. Thus runs the world away. That’s not to say that there aren’t good things about the show. I am watching it, after all! I particularly like the interaction between the two leads, the exactly-once-per-episode jokes about how Ichabod Crane doesn’t understand what life is like here in the future, and the seriously creepy visual design. And good or bad, the show is well worth examining as a case study  in the way that patterns of influence shape stories over time.

First things first: “small group of overmatched and improbably hot people battle a series of fairy-tale monsters in a modern small-town setting” is officially a TV genre now, just like the sitcom and the police procedural. The codifying text here is Buffy, obviously (with the X-Filesas an important precursor), but when Buffy came out is was charming in part because it didn’t fit into any model of what TV was supposed to be like. And even Angel and Charmed, which were blatant attempts to recapture Buffy’s magic, always felt more like commentaries on the horror genre than like genre texts in their own right.

But with Supernatural, and then Grimm, and now Sleepy Hollow, I feel like that’s changed. It’s the diffrence between Leprechaun and Leprechaun in Space, if that makes any sense? Sleepy Hollow is so transparently the kind of show that it is… big shadowy monster in the foreground, little monster of the week based on random and freely-adapted folklore, secret clubhouse where the heroes hang out and consult old manuscripts… you know the drill. It even has a hero with vaguely defined superpowers:  Crane starts as a fish out of water who doesn’t know how he got to the modern era, and knows as little about magic as his modern partner.

But four episodes in, he’s already had a chance to show off his extensive occult knowledge, his eidetic memory, and his knowledge of Middle English. (Protip for the show’s writers:  Roanoke Colony was founded in 1585, two hundred years after Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales, and seven years before Shakespeare wrote Richard III. But whatever.) He’ll probably reveal that he knows ye olde kunge-fue in due course. As demonslayer procedurals go, this is entirely formulaic… and although there’s a nod to the French and Indian war, and a nod to the Boston Tea Party, and a nod to the lost colony of Roanoke, this wafer-thin colonial gloss never matters very much. It never distracts you from the underlying operations of the genre. (And really, that’s how you know that it is a genre to begin with.)

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