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We may only be a couple of weeks into 2016, but the new year has already seen the premieres of several new shows. One series that has been perplexing us for months is Fox’s new sci fi drama Second Chance. Since being picked up for a series order last spring, the show has gone through three different names and had its episode count cut from 13 to 11. Still, perplexing is not necessarily a bad thing, and there was no reason to be anything but cautiously optimistic about the new Fox series. At least, until I watched.
The basic premise for Second Chance is interesting enough. The show follows a man after a regeneration that gives him a second chance at life, the scientists who made the impossible possible, and the domestic drama of a family torn asunder by scandal. Creators Rand Ravich and Howard Gordon designed a series with real potential last pilot season, and it's only now getting the chance to air in 2016.
The pilot introduces us almost immediately to seventy-five-year-old Jimmy Pritchard (Philip Baker Hall), a disgraced former sheriff with dubious taste in the company he keeps but pretty good taste in the music that he blasts. His son Duval (Tim DeKay) is an FBI agent with a low tolerance for his father’s antics. In an unfortunate twist for the Pritchards, Jimmy is killed attempting to stop a robbery at Duval’s home. In a fortunate twist for tech-genius twins Mary (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Otto Goodwin (Adhir Kalyan), however, it turns out that Jimmy’s corpse has the exact genetic material that they need to advance a study. Jimmy is resurrected as a younger, better version of himself (played by Rob Kazinsky) with nearly superhuman abilities, setting him on a path to investigate his own death and protect his son…as soon as he’s done dallying with his favorite call girl.
Pilot episodes notoriously run the gamut from good to bad, and it’s generally best not to go into a pilot expecting the best of the series. Characters are often clunkily introduced so that they can deliver clumsy blocks of exposition to set up the premise ASAP while still leaving time for the exciting stuff to build to an epic climax. Sadly, with Second Chance, there wasn’t so much a build to a climax as there was a slow gathering of just enough momentum to coast to the finish line.
The premise that had the potential to be remarkable turned out to be pretty generic, and there wasn’t nearly enough flash or pizzazz to cover up some of the plot holes. There could have been a lot more effort put into some creatively believable pseudoscience, and the episode couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be a campy exploration of a sensualist old man blessed with a young man’s physique or a crime drama with hidden corruption (sometimes it even bordered on primetime soap). Not every science fiction series has to be a Star Trek or a Firefly or a Lost, but they generally need to go big or go home when trying to sell its premise, and Second Chance didn’t really bother.
On the whole, however, the biggest problem with the pilot of Second Chance was that there was no real standout element to make all of the little niggling details not matter so much. Although the main cast members have proved themselves capable of turning in solid performances in past projects, they lacked urgency and spark in most of their interactions. Rob Kazinsky, as the new and improved Jimmy, clearly had some fun in the scenes featuring Jimmy re-discovering the advantages of youth, but it wasn’t enough to elevate the energy of the rest of the cast.
The pilot isn't offensively bad or anything, but it’s difficult not to think of the numerous ways that it could have been better. There are goldmines of potential plot in everything from consideration of the morality of resurrection to how science managed the magical. The episode needed much more depth than it provided, and Second Chance did not give off the greatest first impression. Only time will tell if enough people will tune in to give second chances to Second Chance or if Second Chance will join the ranks of other series likely to be cancelled in 2016.
Second Chance airs its season premiere on Wednesday, January 13 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox. To see when the rest of the new series are set to debut, check out our midseason TV schedule.
Photos courtesy of Fox.