Heads will roll — and more than a few eyes — in Fox's lavishly entertaining but hopelessly convoluted new supernatural thriller Sleepy Hollow (Monday, 9/8c), which officially kicks off a new season of network premieres. Given how ordinary so many of the networks' new shows are this fall, it seems a bit churlish not to wholeheartedly embrace a series that is anything but ordinary. And yet by the end of an opening hour that gets off to a spectacularly fun start, I wanted nothing more than for it to just shut up with all of the apocalyptic mumbo jumbo.
On the plus side, a star is unquestionably born in Tom Mison, a winning British actor who makes for a dashing and amusing action hero in this bold re-imagining of Washington Irving's iconic Ichabod Crane (from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which we've heretofore seen Disney-fied and Tim Burton-ized). Here conceived as a studly Revolutionary War hero and spy for General George Washington, this Ichabod is mysteriously resurrected into the 21st century, along with the axe-wielding Headless Horseman who cut him down 250 years ago and is soon lopping off heads in the modern-day Hollow. There's great humor in Crane's disoriented bewilderment at his fish-out-of-water situation — when he sees a Starbucks on every block, he muses, "Is there a law?" — which escalates into indignant exasperation when he is jailed and grilled by the overwhelmed local police force. Soon, he's bonding with ambitious local deputy Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), who can't quite believe this character but can't deny him either, because of eerie happenings in her own past. And, you know, the horrifying beheadings.
So far so good, but you may echo Abbie's skeptical "C'mon!" when it's revealed that the Headless Horseman is one of the legendary Four Horsemen of the You-Know-What, and that Crane's wife (seen in visions and flashbacks) was a witch and part of an ancient order pledged to ... blah blah, curse/fate-of-mankind/destiny/evil blah-blah. The more seriously Sleepy Hollow seems to take itself, the more it threatens to become the next Zero Hour. And you can't get more hollow than that. But there's no way I won't be watching the next few episodes, hoping that the suspenseful mirth outweighs the ponderous mythology.
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A BONE TO PICK: Before the missing skull (the Horseman's), there are the usual assortment of cracked noggins and mutilated body parts that constitute another grisly day in the life of the forensic crime-solvers on Fox's Bones (8/7c). The ninth season opens with a chill settling in, now that Booth (David Boreanaz) has seemingly broken his beloved Bones' (Emily Deschanel) heart by refusing to marry her — acting on secret orders of the omniscient hacker fiend Pelant, who in last season's cliffhanger threatened to kill innocents if Seeley revealed to Temperance why he wasn't walking her down the aisle. Got that? (Even by TV standards, this emotional blackmail scheme is a bit out there.)
"Everybody's miserable," growls AUSA Caroline (Patricia Belcher), and that's true enough. Angela's turning a cold shoulder to Booth, who's pouring his heart out in confession to an ex-priest/military buddy-turned-bartender (Zather Mickel, who turns up later this season in Showtime's excellent Masters of Sex), while the ever-pragmatic Bones frets at the illogic of Booth's actions. When told to have faith in her man, this mistress of cold hard facts is put in an existential quandary: "I believe in patterns and sequences, and this sequence doesn't end well unless something disrupts the pattern." Let's hope something disrupts this pattern soon, because I know I'm not the only one sick of Pelant and this storyline. And yes, of course there is a murder to solve, involving a victim who ends up in "the world's biggest body blender" (a hotel's AC unit) and whose identity brings Booth in contact with a CIA agent and another former Army buddy, played by Freddie Prinze Jr., the sort of casting that signifies he's likely to play a bigger part in the season to come.
KING OF THE DOME: The "Monarch" will be revealed in the season finale of CBS's summer hit Under the Dome (10/9c), but it may be too late to rescue the citizens of Chester's Mill from their chronic mob idiocy. Seriously, any town that would fall for Big Jim's act and believe that scruffy Barbie is capable of mass murder — after being the closest thing they've had to a superhero through the first days of this daffy crisis — deserves to end up like that bisected cow from the first episode. But looks like we'll be stuck with these dome-bells for at least one more summer.
SO THEY THINK THEY CAN DANCE? ABC may have cut back Dancing With the Stars to one night a bit prematurely, given the buzz over Season 17's eclectic and news-making cast — most notably the addition of Valerie Harper, whose public battle with terminal brain cancer takes a bold step into uncharted territory as she signs off for this grueling show. She's joined by Jack Osbourne, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year ago, and Jersey Shore's Snooki, burdened by a complete lack of discernible talent. Among the other notables we're actually looking forward to seeing try to cut a rug: Glee veteran Amber Riley, Bill Nye the Science Guy, football great Keyshawn Johnson, blue-collar clown Bill Engvall, the outspoken Leah Remini and the likely ringer from the world of Disney: High School Musical's Corbin Bleu. In the opener (8/7c), the stars and their pros will attempt either a cha-cha, fox trot or contemporary routine, and one will be sent home in next Monday's combination performance/results show.
NEW QUEEN IN DAYTIME: She's not being presumptuous. Queen Latifah has been calling herself by that name as long as we've known her. But whether she can rule daytime remains to be seen. Her new eponymous talk show kicks off with John Travolta and Alicia Keys among her first-day guests (check tvguide.com listings), along with Willow Smith, daughter of the show's executive producers Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith — the latter turning up as a guest later this week; helps to know somebody on staff, right?
THE MONDAY GUIDE: While NBC's disappointing Million Second Quiz chugs on into a second and thankfully final week (8/7c), syndicated giant — and the best of all quiz shows — Jeopardy! launches its 30th season (check tvguide.com listings). Among the coming highlights: a Battle of the Decades Tournament, which will air in stages throughout the year, in which 45 past champions — each representing the '80s, '90s and 2000s — will compete for an ultimate million-dollar prize. ... A week before NBC's The Voice returns to dominate the Monday lineup with its addictive Blind Auditions, E!'s True Hollywood Story (10/9c) profiles the eccentric Cee Lo Green, who's back in the swiveling chair this season. The one-hour special follows his path from the rough Atlanta suburbs to the flamboyant center stage from which he now commands attention. ... NBC's faux-reality thriller Siberia wraps its summer season (10:01/9:01c) with the survivors awaiting a rescue party — which like most everything in the show probably isn't what it appears to be. ... The third week of TCM's fascinating The Story of Film: An Odyssey (10/9c) looks at "The Great Rebel Filmmakers Around the World" operating in the years between 1928-1932, a golden age of visual experimentation. F.W. Murnau's haunting silent classic Sunrise airs at 8/7c as a warm-up, and after this week's Film lesson, the night is filled with world-renowned breakthroughs including Battleship Potemkin (11:15/10:15c), and in the wee hours, the surreal The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's epic Metropolis.