Arts tv review

Pilot episodes can be rough

Minority Report is unintentionally hilarious — watch it ‘ironically’

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Stark Sands (left) and Meagan Good (right) in Minority Report.
Courtesy of Fox Broadcasting Company

Minority Report

Developed by Max Borenstein

Based on the film and short story of the same name

Premiered Monday, September 20

On Fox

I was incredibly excited to hear that Fox was premiering a TV spinoff of the futuristic sci-fi movie Minority Report (directed by Steven Spielberg, 2002). The series is appropriately (or perhaps, confusingly) called Minority Report. A quick summary for those who haven’t seen the film (I do recommend it!): fast forward to 2054, the government has future-predicting “pre-crime” tech that allows them to capture criminals before they commit (or even think to commit) crimes. Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, realizes that these methods are not completely reliable and can imprison innocent people. I enjoyed the movie version — I thought it was philosophically interesting and the plot was engaging and constantly thrilling. Minority Report, the TV show, however, leaves much to be desired.

It’s unfortunate that the show doesn’t aim to be a campy, cliche comedy because at least then it would be somewhat successful — the show is certainly campy, but only questionably funny. The viewer is bombarded with futuristic tech. I’ll give you a piece of the montage now to save you the trouble of watching it yourself: holographic-gesture-controlled crime instant replay detective tech, scrolling marijuana ads on subway windows, an eerie tangible 3D version of Skype, and best of all, selfie drones. I get it; the pilot of a series needs to immediately impress and captivate audiences, which might explain why the showrunner felt the need to pack the episode with special effects (though with little else).

I honestly couldn’t tell if I thought the actors were unconvincing or if the overwhelmingly cliche-ridden plot and characters were to blame. The protagonist, Dash (Stark Sands), is one of the male precogs (short for precognitives, or someone who can see the future) from the film, and since he has lived most of his life in a vat seeing visions of people being murdered, his social skills are a work in progress. Sands isn’t half bad at the awkward component of Dash’s character, but there were some scenes where it just felt too forced. Despite this, Sands’s performance as Dash was probably the most interesting part of the show. Next, we have Detective Laura Vega (Meagan Good) who is the unconventional cop with the stereotypical “became a cop due to childhood tragedy” backstory. Of course the two meet and team up to form the requisite genius consultant/tough cop duo that is found in about half of the cop shows in the history of TV (at least it sure feels that way).

Unsurprisingly, the plot revolves around Dash’s desperate attempts to use his abilities to stop murders before they happen. The tricky bit is that pre-crime (the whole “catching bad guys before they commit crimes” idea from the movie) was outlawed, thanks to the hard work of John Anderton at the end of the film. Dash and his fellow precognitive siblings are supposed to be in hiding under government protection, so that no one gets any further ideas about using them for pre-crime purposes, but Dash clearly isn’t having that.

The plot is painfully predictable. Dash wants to stop a murder, but ultimately can’t (he never gets to the scene in time because his powers are incomplete without his siblings — he only catches the images of the murders, but no name/location information). Dash meets detective Vega and gives her info to help the police catch a bad guy. Dash and Vega realize that together they can save people by combining his visions and her police skills, essentially going rogue and pre-crime all over again. At one point, a friend I was watching the episode with muttered, “Didn’t they see the movie?”

Of course, the showrunners aren’t entirely oblivious to the message from the film: pre-crime is unethical and not 100 percent reliable. There is some superficial exploration of the ethics of pre-crime. For example, Dash feels really bad when he goes to a mental hospital filled with ex-prisoners whose brains were fried by the “halo-ing” imprisonment process shown in the film. But that’s about it. After all, how compelling can a show be if they’ve already outlawed the most interesting thing about the show’s universe?

I’m actually starting to question my taste in television shows as I contemplate tuning in next Monday (if the show makes it to its second episode). I’m not sure if I have this compulsion because I still wish for the show to capture my interest like the parent film had, or if I want to watch things devolve even further.