'Sleepy Hollow' Season Premiere: This Series Looks Nothing Like Washington Irving Imagined


Sleepy Hollow is a fantasy police procedural from Fox that combines the grit of a detective series with a world filled with witches, demons, secret societies, time travel, and American history. It's the latest the channel's long line of supernatural law-and-order programs and dramatic sci-fi shows, starting with The X-Files and including cancelled shows like Brimstone, Millennium, Sliders, and Fringe. Premiering on Monday at 9 p.m., Sleepy Hollow is worth checking out, but might not be worth losing your head over.

In this adaptation of Washington Irving's classic short story, George Washington tasks Ichabod Crane, a soldier fighting in the American Revolution, with beheading a vicious enemy mercenary. Doing so unleashes a curse that puts Ichabod into a deep, 240-year sleep that only ends when the mercenary returns from the dead as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Are you still with me? After being picked up by the police in Sleepy Hollow for looking suspicious, Ichabod teams up with one of the town’s deputies to hunt for the headless horseman, who is leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

The show's plot has little to do with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" — which deals more with a fight over a girl than a revenge-seeking Hessian mercenary without a head — and its pilot has received mixed reviews from television critics, who question whether the show can achieve anything beyond a cult status. The show certainly boasts an impressive pedigree, with Star Trek Into Darkness and Transformers writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman serving as cocreators and executive producers. If nothing else, Sleepy Hollow should be entertaining.

The biggest complaints about Sleepy Hollow are that the show is overly campy, and that its characters lack depth. Both are valid criticisms. Even though we've made great strides in graphics and technology, the CGI looks cartoonish at times, and the mash-up of genres is sloppy and convoluted. (As the Washington Post's Hank Stuever put it, the show is “layered with hints of unfolding conspiracies — time-travel and secret brotherhoods and what-not.”)

Even so, I'm curious to see more of the series. After all, The X-files also left many reviewers confused, as it embraced campiness as a stylistic choice for all of its nine seasons, creating moments of humor in an otherwise dark show. Viewers can excuse complicated plot twists when they are woven within interesting and complex character development. According to Tom Mison, the actor playing Ichabod Crane, “in the hands of lesser writers, this show would be terrible.” Mison has generally received rave reviews for his performance, which could carry the show until it hits its stride. Hopefully, it will. If nothing changes, Sleepy Hollow won’t be raising the dead anytime soon.