TV Review - The Tomorrow People (2013)

Robbie Amell (left), Aaron Yoo, Luke Mitchell
and Peyton List (right) in "The Tomorrow People"
The Tomorrow People is a remake of a British TV series by Roger Price that premiered on ITV back in 1973, exactly 40 years ago. Greg Berlanti, Phil Klemmer and Julie Plec developed this American version, which feels very derivative of The X-Men, the series of Marvel Comics that was first published in 1963, exactly 50 years ago.

Robbie Amell (True Jackson VP and Revenge) stars as Stephen Jameson, a teenage boy who realizes that he's apart of a secret race of super-powered humans, known as the Tomorrow People. He's told that he like all Tomorrow People has the three T's: teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis. It's the result of a genetic mutation like the X-Men, and if you're familiar with the X-Men characters, each of the Tomorrow People basically has the abilities of Nightcrawler, Charles Xavier and Jean Grey all rolled into one.

At the same time, an organization that might be in league with the government called Ultra is out to find these Tomorrow People and contain them or kill them. The wrinkle is that the leader of Ultra is Stephen's paternal uncle, Jedikiah Price, played by Mark Pellegrino who has been steadily working in television for over 25 years, recently making impressions on shows like Dexter, Lost, Supernatural and Revolution.

Robbie Amell is the younger brother to Stephen Amell, the star of Arrow, and The Tomorrow People airs on the same network as Arrow on the same night in the following hour, so both Amell boys star in TV shows back-to-back. It's interesting that last year before Arrow premiered, the advertising was all about Stephen Amell's half-naked body.

Stephen Amell in "Arrow"
Stephen Amell is probably the most, muscular man in prime-time, scripted television. He has incredibly, chiseled abs and large pecs and biceps, and in many episodes throughout the first season of Arrow, Stephen Amell was shirtless in gratuitous sequences. Robbie Amell is in great shape too and he has had one or two beefcake shots, but I feel like after five episodes this show hasn't exploited Robbie Amell as his brother was and still is. It's probably because The Tomorrow People has a higher concept, a more complicated one and has more characters to juggle and develop.

My underlying point is that it provides Robbie Amell with a better acting platform than his brother, whereas his brother is better with the physicality and the flexing of everything, except his acting muscle. This is in line with a recent spate of brothers working in Hollywood where one brother, usually the older one, might be physically more attractive but the other brother, usually the younger one, is the better actor. Examples include James and Dave Franco, Chris and Liam Hemsworth, and Ben and Casey Affleck.

Yes, Stephen Amell is the better-built brother, but Robbie Amell might just be the better actor. Robbie Amell is by no means ugly of course. He's kind of like a young Tom Cruise. The younger Amell isn't given as many scenes where he can be light-hearted or funny outside of the pilot episode. By the third episode, things get deadly serious and the seriousness pretty-much is maintained. This requires more concentration from Amell, more acting gravitas, which might be skewing my perception.

The show is more of an action thriller, but The Tomorrow People uses its sci-fi to have more interesting debates than the simple vigilante debates on Arrow that have been done to death now in this past decade that has been dominated by superhero movies and TV shows. One debate that is had and is continual is one regarding whether or not the Tomorrow People are even human.

The Tomorrow People live in the subway tunnels underneath New York City. They're like the Morlocks from the X-Men comics. The leader is John Young, played by Luke Mitchell (Neighbours and Home and Away). Jedikiah essentially adopted John as a young boy and raised him, but once John realized the truth about Ultra and what Jedikiah was really doing, John left to lead the Tomorrow People and protect them, which starts the second debate about what should be done to deal with super-powered people and whether we should fear them or not.

Peyton List (As the World Turns and Mad Men) co-stars as Cara Coburn, the second-in-command to John and John's possible love interest. Cara has the point-of-view of Magneto from the X-Men. She only sees the bad in humans. She doesn't see the Tomorrow People as being human and that all humans are lesser and shouldn't be trusted at all. The first debate involves her point-of-view and whether or not she's correct. As we learn in episode 3, Cara has very specific reasons for her point-of-view. Yes, there are genetic differences between the Tomorrow People, but are those differences so extreme that it rises to the level of new species all together or is it the difference between white people and black people?

Rounding out the cast is Aaron Yoo (Disturbia and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) who plays Russell Kwon, the Korean-American comic relief, as well as Sarah Clarke (24 and Covert Affairs) who plays Marla Jameson, Stephen's mother, and Madeleine Mantock who plays Astrid Finch, the best friend of Stephen. All of them are well-written and well-used in the show. The look of the show, its editing and visual effects are slick. The action is always good because the writers craft great drama and conflict for the characters in that action, and Jedikiah as the instigator of most of the action has fast become one of the best villains of the 2013 season.

The only possible problem from a plot perspective is the mythology being built about Stephen. Stephen is apparently special and has the potential of becoming the most powerful of all the Tomorrow People. Yes, he's basically the Anakin Skywalker of the group. What that means is he can overcome the technology that Ultra uses to stop the Tomorrow People and in addition to the three T's, Stephen has another super-power that also starts with the letter T, and that's time-control. Stephen can freeze time like Hiro Nakamura from the TV series Heroes. The possible problem is if Stephen has all this potential, he could easily stop Ultra all by himself and once he completes his training, he is never really in any danger. Given that Stephen is still a teenager and still learning his powers, he's not quite the walking deus ex machina, but, eventually, this problem will need to be addressed. Until then, I'm still enjoying the show.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-V.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 9PM on the CW.


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