It’s been more than forty years since the head of the FCC called television a “vast wasteland.” Today, it’s the center of our storytelling culture. Some of it (and yes, I do mean Game of Thrones) has achieved the level of high art.
Summer TV used to be the worst of the worst. Not just a wasteland, but a wasteland of reruns. Now, though, the outlets use summer as a short season, an opportunity to air off-beat shows they’re not quite sure of, or mini-series with a distinct beginning, middle and end.
The Whispers is one of those latter, and it’s really good. From a network too — ABC — which is not usually where you find the best stuff. It looks like a network show, unfortunately. Too bright, the lighting too flat, the actors all too beautiful, the characters more fantastic than real. (She’s a perfect mom, but she’s also a full-time FBI Agent? Eh, no.)
But as entertainment, it’s terrific. It’s because of the story and writing mostly. Creator credit goes to Soo Hugh who worked on the Stephen King project Under the Dome. It’s got a great premise: some unseen force is enticing children to commit crimes by whispering to them in the guise of an imaginary friend named Drill. It’s got expert plotting: the excellent twist at the end of the first episode actually took me completely off-guard, not easy to do. And it’s got a sense of scope and urgency. Hugh knows where she’s going and how to get there. None of which is to take away from the appealing cast, led by the very appealing Lily Rabe and Kristin Connolly.
The other interesting what-the-hell-is-going-on-here summer thriller is over at Fox: Wayward Pines. The premise is kind of unwieldy and unbelievable, but it’s got great performances by the wonderful Terence Howard and Melissa Leo, not to mention my old One Missed Call pal, the beautiful Shannyn Sossamon, who’s also doing an excellent job. The writer Chad Hodge made the highly intelligent decision to put the big reveal in the middle of the ten-part series. (The show is based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch.) I’m not sure if Hodge can work out all the wrinkles, but he’s got me interested enough to stay on to the end to find out.
In both cases, good kick-back summer entertainment, a lot more original and involving than what’s in the theaters.