It's hard not to want to believe in talents like Alfonso Cuaron (of the amazing Gravity) and J.J. Abrams (no TV explanation necessary). These two very busy visionaries lend their names, and Cuaron his directing chops (in the pilot episode, anyway), for NBC's otherwise painfully derivative Believe (Monday, 10/9c), which plays like one of those middling Stephen King melodramas about supernaturally gifted children on the run for their lives.
Cuaron elevates the stock clichés with visual motifs of a butterfly providing mystical guidance and a dizzying flock of pigeons (my idea of a living nightmare) subduing a Big Bad Female Assassin in a loft. It's a handsome looking pilot, even at its most predictably familiar. And as Bo, the spunky little girl whose psychic and paranormal gifts seem to have no end — or, maddeningly, definition — Johnny Sequoyah is agreeable company, never too cute even when the script calls for Bo to be cloyingly precious. Because believe it or not, Believe feels it necessary to squelch the chase-thriller elements with schmaltzy subplots reminiscent of Fox's short-lived Touch. Bo knows goodness, and in between close calls as she eludes her well-funded potential kidnappers, she somehow finds time to inspire a young doctor to get past his crisis of confidence.
Whatever Bo does tends to exasperate her newly appointed guardian Tate (generically scruffy Jake McLaughlin), a wrongly convicted death-row prisoner whose escape is engineered by the resourceful Milton Winter (hammy Delroy Lindo), leader of an organization committed to protecting Bo from the sinister clutches of wealthy über-villain Roman Skouras (smug Kyle MacLachlan). And so it goes as Bo and Tate trade sophisticated barbs like "You stink!" and "You're a brat!" as they fight off murderous baddies while Bo delivers hokey life lessons about believing in yourself.
Suspending disbelief would be a lot more enjoyable if we hadn't seen it all before.
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THE MONDAY GUIDE: After a brief midseason exile on Fridays, Fox's durable Bones, already renewed for a 10th season, returns where it belongs on Mondays (8/7c), reminding us that it's never wise to patronize the title character — whom an insurance company has decided is a bigger liability in the field than her husband Booth. The latest case, involving international terrorism, naturally tests that assumption. Freddie Prinze Jr. returns as Booth's CIA buddy Danny Beck, whose involvement with the politically outspoken victim puts him under suspicion. ... For kids of all ages: An all-star voice cast distinguishes a special "Dora in Wonderland" episode of Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer (7/6c), with Mel Brooks as the Mad Hatter, Alan Cumming as Rabbit, Jewel as the Cheshire Cat and Sara Ramirez as the Queen of Hearts. ... It's a three-hour wallow in contrived made-for-TV romance as Juan Pablo decides between Clare and Nikki on the finale of ABC's The Bachelor (8/7c), followed immediately by The Bachelor: After the Final Rose, during which the identity of the next lucky Bachelorette (aka "Sloppy Seconds in Love") will be revealed. ... The late night wars continue to percolate, as in classic fish-out-of-water mode, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live (11:35/10:35c) sends the host to Texas for a week of shows taped in Austin during the South By Southwest Festival. Among his first guests: Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg.