Hello to my maybe three blog readers, one of whom is definitely my mother. Remember four months ago when I said I was going to regularly update this blog? That was a simpler time. A naive version of me who was in denial about the fact that I’m a social worker and my mental energy is typically depleted by around 3:00 p.m. every day.
Knowing all that, I set out a new challenge for myself. I’m going to review the pilot of each new broadcast television show airing this fall. 17 new shows. Only 7 of which I planned on watching. Ambitious? For me, absolutely. Realistic? …We’ll see.
I would like to especially thank Fox for making the pilot of Prodigal Son available on YouTube a week early because once all my shows premiere, it’s going to get rough to complete this plan.
Premise: Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) is a criminal psychologist for the FBI who specializes in finding serial killers. After an encounter with a local sheriff goes poorly, the FBI fires Malcolm for fear he is psychotic. Malcolm is then recruited by old friend Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) with the NYPD to help with a profile of a serial killer in New York City. Malcolm got into criminal psychology because of his interest in a particular serial killer known as The Surgeon (Michael Sheen). And oh yeah, The Surgeon is actually his father.
The Good: Michael Sheen was born to play this role. He has such nice guy energy with an undercurrent of pure psychosis. You want to spend hours with him because he is so charming, but you also fear he’ll murder you at some point. Every scene with Michael Sheen is absolutely electric. Bellamy Young plays Malcolm’s mother Jessica Whitly and is just as phenomenal here as she was on Scandal.
The Bad: The great Michael Sheen, Bellamy Young, and Lou Diamond Phillips are not the stars of this show. Tom Payne is. In most scenes, he’s with acting giants and is generally outperformed by all of them. He comes across as your general generic “Very Special Genius” (think Bones, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, Shaun on “The Good Doctor” etc.). He is not written as if he has autism like most Very Special Geniuses tend to be, but he does supposedly have “the serial killer gene,” so it is vaguely similar to the Disability Superpower Trope. It is only the pilot, so there is still a strong chance he’ll grow into this role.
Overall Impression: This was my most anticipated new drama of the season and this does not disappoint. Michael Sheen is beyond phenomenal in this role. I’m somewhat skeptical on Tom Payne, but I hope he’ll grow into his part. I’ve heard some early comparisons to “The Following,” but “Prodigal Son” does not have the overwhelming gloom “The Following” did. My fear is that as they settle into more of a “case of the week” format, it will become more difficult to organically integrate Michael Sheen into the story. I hope Fox will keep this to a 10- or 13-episode season to allow for tighter storytelling. It feels odd to pair this with “911” on Monday nights, since “911” is more pure batshit craziness. I almost feel this could be a better fit with “Empire” on Tuesday nights. Regardless, this is staying on my weekly watch list.
The pilot of “Prodigal Son” is available now on YouTube, or you can catch the series premiere on September 23 on Fox.