Spoilers for the first episode of Sleepy Hollow and the last episode of Breaking Bad follow.
Here’s the thing about my house: in my house, the procedural (TV’s version of easy listening) reigns supreme. Not due to my overwhelmingly exceptional taste in television, mind you. There’s another person who is sometimes in charge of the TV in these parts, and he is quite possibly the biggest fan of procedural television that has ever held a remote control. If David Caruso were dead, it would take little to no convincing to get me to believe my husband was the reincarnation of the quippy ginger himself. Thus, the fall network television lineup is a pretty big deal for us, and we spend a good deal of time checking out the various offerings.
Last week, our own David R shared his thoughts on one of the new fall shows, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. He raised some excellent points—mainly that one of the main characters reacts unrealistically to nearly every situation in which he finds himself, especially when it comes to race relations, gender relations, and time travel—a major premise of the show.
I’m here to say that while I absolutely agree with him, I couldn’t care less.
Make no mistake, although Sleepy Hollow is a good one, it really is just another procedural. Well, according to the three episodes I’ve seen so far, at least. I suppose they could pull the rug out from under us and eventually present us with a gothic-flavored Breaking Bad wherein Ichabod Crane brings back opium dens in upstate New York then spirals downward until he’s forced to MacGuyver an automatic flintlock rifle to take out the horseman’s henchman in their underground crypt hideout.
Barring that, it will likely retain its monster-of-the-week format. This has obviously been done before, and while Sleepy Hollow offers a slight twist by featuring a man outside of time, it’s been done to perfection elsewhere.
So why, exactly, is Sleepy Hollow one of my pleasant surprises?
Easy: the cast. There isn’t a weak performance in the bunch, and not only is one of the two leads a woman, she’s a person of color. Add Ichabod’s wife (it doesn’t matter that she’s been dead for over two centuries, because she’s a witch and this is a supernatural drama, you see) and Abbie’s (the lead’s) sister into the mix, and you’ve got a bevy of important female characters regularly inhabiting the screen. Orlando Jones, John Cho, and Nicholas Gonzalez round out most of the rest of the male cast and offer plenty more diversity besides, and even the one-off tertiary characters tend more towards POC than otherwise.
Of course, the other of the two leads is a charmingly roguish, brunette caucasian beardo, but delightfully (joking), the first two victims of the headless horsemen are old, presumably straight white dudes. How refreshing!
I was severely disappointed to see Clancy Brown’s demise so early in the series, if I’m being totally honest. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed the weird feels he gave me as Brother Justin (a moment of silence for Carnivale). Thankfully, as mentioned above, the show trucks in the supernatural, so there seems to be plenty of opportunity for him to reappear, even if it’s only in voiceover—which of course only calls to mind Brother Justin’s radio sermons (I really, really miss Carnivale.)
So, is Sleepy Hollow unorginal? Sure. Are some of the protagonist’s behaviors unrealistic? Yes. Has the supernatural/impending apocalypse drama already been done to death? Maybe. But outside of Sesame Street, is there a cast this racially and gender diverse on television? I don’t think so.
Way to sneak some social progress into our regularly scheduled viewing, Fox. You’ve surprised me. In the words of MilRuko, a commenter on David R’s original article: “My chips are all in.”