Can you believe it, but on the day this was getting screened I completely forgot about it. Fortunately adeline reminded me IT’S PILOT TIME (she was watching something else) which gave my brain the poke it needed. Unfortunately I also jumped a little too early in trying to hunt the thing down as it hadn’t even screened in the US when I was looking *headdesk* After much angsting and searching I FINALLY managed to get my hands on the pilot episode of Three Inches.
To give you a bit of background, in September 2010 SyFy got a gangbuster of sci-fi, fantasy & horror tv stars, put them all into a little place called Toronto and filmed a TV show about an underachieveing guy who in a WORST-DAY-OF-MY-LIFE (ala fellow Canadian show Being Erica) scenario gits hit by lightning in which he suddenly obtains superpowers – of the less than fantastic kind (he can telekinetically move things, but only three inches). He’s hunted down by the Charles Xavier of this world (James Marsters) to join a group of equally unimpressive superheroes (apparently akin to the UK show Misfits which I haven’t seen so can’t comment on) to “save the world”. And that’s the episode in a nutshell, of course incorporating the first mission. As far as SyFy are concerned, because they made Alphas at the same time and green lit that one, they didn’t know what to do with this one as they thought it was too similar a show and wanted to change it from a mission based drama to a character based drama, or to a half hour comedy (and now having seen the ep, I can see where these thoughts came from. I’ll elaborate under the cut), but instead decided to shelve the project altogether.
So what I expected was to see MY BOY (yes, I’m claiming him) Kyle Schmid heading up the team without any superpowers (hence why he’s called “Captain Normal”), James Marsters in some kind of role, plus Naoko Mori from Torchwood and, as I found out at T3, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles/Battlestar Galactica star Stephanie Jacobsen as Kyle’s love interest. OH and Brandon Jay McLaren was in there somewhere too which I was pleased about considering he’s been all over my radar the past two years and I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in.
Here’s what I didn’t expect to see – a bunch of Supernatural stars by the name of Alona Tal (Jo in SPN, Lily in this show) and Julian Richings (Death in SPN, Ethan/Insect Man in this show). I also didn’t expect Walter (played by newbie Noah Reid) to be so damn likeable, nor his mother (played by Andrea Martin) to be so damn funny.
Where to start? Okay, perhaps a roll call of characters is called for.
Walter Spackman (Noah Reid) – as I mentioned above, he did end up being rather likable; not this time in a relatable way (as was the case on Being Erica), but more a cheer on the underdog way. Hopelessly in love with his childhood friend, he decides after many many years he now needs to come clean and tell her through a flamboyant plan that involves placing a plush 3 seater couch on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea (or at least… I presume that’s what we were looking at).
Where it went right: Noah’s enthusiasm for the confession and, really, life itself (he has a 10yr grand plan you know) makes you actually quite like Walter, despite the fact that in the light of reality you wouldn’t even consider this man to be relationship material. He has great chemistry with the majority of the cast (and I wouldn’t say no to Walter & Watts getting it on – especially after their heart to heart on the same couch), and hours of footage (okay, the most dominant footage) of Walter & Troy doesn’t get boring because of this. Also, despite the fact it was a little cliché, his disbelief at the strange man approaching him and telling him he had superpowers like in the comics was a moment which couldn’t be argued with (except that I was waiting for Troy to demonstrate a super power when he in fact had none – unfortunately a poorly written article I’d read prior to the show had me believing as such). Everything about his power – the use of, the effects, the repercussions – were all spot on.
Where it went wrong: The fact Walter never questioned “the package” over why she was being contained by armed men until waaaaaaaayyyyyyyy after they’d been running all over town with her, and even more of a “duh” moment – the fact it didn’t even occur to him she may have a superpower (and it took his mortal best friend who wasn’t even involved in the whole supergroup and had only JUST found out about Walter’s power to deduct this).
Macklin (Brandon Jay McLaren) – Walter’s best friend who spends most of his time driving around in a convertible waving newspapers at Walter and rambling on about various apartments. He also works at some pub/bar/restaurant hybrid which he has an overly invested interest in like he owns the place but at the same time also complains about not being able to do the job he wants to do (which somehow ends with him back in the kitchen).
Where it went right: LOVE ALL OVER this guy. He was perhaps the most endearing of the entire cast. Essentially he was the Lafyette (True Blood) of Three Inches (though not quite as flamboyant and more PG rated). He wasn’t afraid to put his foot down with his friend (who he was doing a lot for trying to make up for Walter’s underachieving ways), and he was quite excited to learn about the superpowers and jump straight in on the act (in all sorts of Morgan on Chuck ways without being clumsy/fantasy hungry about it).
Where it went wrong: Initially I thought BJM was one of the superheroes, but despite the fact he wasn’t I was thrilled at what I was given (so, essentially, it wasn’t a bad thing). They perhaps needed to be a little bit more clearer about his job/where he stood (the whole kitchen hand subplot they could have scrapped or left for another episode – we didn’t need to know all that detail about Macklin just yet. Just leaving him in charge of the place would have been enough for now and made entire sense). Other than that, no issues!
Troy Hamilton (James Marsters) – The ex-CIA-military-paranormal junkie. He’s what you’d get if Fox Mulder read too many comics and decided to form a group of people with paranormal abilities in his retirement.
Where it went right: Casting, absolutely. The reviewers weren’t wrong when they said James did a standup job in the role. Many of us were staring at the warm, supportive, guiding (dare I say even fatherly) role James was portraying and saying “Is that really the same guy who played Spike?” Also, the twist at the end around the mission was interesting and well played.
Where it went wrong:The random scenes interjected into the episode between Troy, his dog and a mysterious man at the park. They made no sense and I didn’t get until the end of the episode that the other guy was “the client” who wanted “the package” (way to go, SyFy. This is me in full support saying drop the mission based eps – it was the least relevant and interesting thing in the episode and we didn’t actually need to see who “the client” was unless they were going to have some meaning later). Also trying to pass off James as Kyle’s father…
Brandon aka “Captain Normal” (Kyle Schmid) – The guy without powers who somehow heads up the super group with his unique abilities consisting of surviving gun shot bullets to the body (which apparently should be obvious to everyone that he wears body armour, but in all honesty I can’t see it under those skimpy tank tops) and acting like a jealous jackass. Oh, and he also manages to double time as headquarter security as well – I don’t know where he finds the time to sleep!
Where it went right: Kyle, really, can do no wrong – although I wasn’t entirely convinced he was a jackass (but maybe that’s just personal bias). Jealousy was rife all over his face through the entire episode which made his revelation that he hated being normal all the more meaningful. Also, full points to the revelation of Troy being his father – that raised a red flag for daddy issues, a son striving to reach his father’s expectations so he’ll pay his son as much attention as he does to the rest of the supergroup. This was by far the biggest PRO to making this a drama based on characters and their relationships as we could have delved more into all this. Also, the scene with Watts where he says “Don’t make me happy. Not like this. I don’t want to be happy.” is made of win for 2 reasons – 1) Kyle being able to successfully manipulate his facial expression and words to express an unhappy man being forced to be happy and 2) If Stephanie had indeed been right about the Brandon/Watts relationship, then Kyle’s delivery of “Not like this.” was a perfect allusion to that. Also claiming the seat next to Watts during their drinking outing and laying special claim to knowing her real name (at least I presume that’s what the intention was) also played perfectly into that.
Where it went wrong: All of the supergroup gets introduced to Walter at one time… except Brandon. For some reason he is strangely missing from this scene, then appears later to skulk over Troy encouragingly coaching Walter on the use of his powers. That makes sense in terms of jealousy, but perhaps if we’d had Kyle in the original scene as well if only to simply sneer at the new introduction being walked in and then slink offscreen (for security duty, obviously) it would have created a better connection for his character to the rest of the group.
Watts aka Emotional Manipulator (Stephanie Jacobsen) – The hard ass with a
Where it went right: The support she gave the other characters – especially Walter. Okay, mostly Walter. And the fact she stayed to “deal with” Brandon was, again, something that could have played towards a Watts/Brandon relationship.
Where it went wrong: Well I’d kind of like to say “What crack was Stephanie on telling me that she played Kyle’s love interest?” Apart from the few references I made above (at a stretch at that, and only because I was looking for them), the characters acted little more than associates and, at best, commander and sub-commander, captain and first mate… you get my drift. I was also really annoyed with the constant “Didn’t you know?”’s to Walter as if things should have been obvious to him and to us (yeah, maybe if you’d written clearer, it might have been!). And yes, I’m sorry, but that stone-faced acting of Stephanie’s may have been good for TSCC but here you felt completely removed from the character (and was only useful in the scene with the crying men around her at the bar). I would have much more preferred a softer character like Alona Tal’s Lily playing the part. Hell I’d even go as far as changing the power from not being happy/sad (which they took great liberties with, BTW. Showing up in a skimpy outfit in a bar and seating yourself next to a mob boss who you SOMEHOW make reminisce about his sister and his childhood and then he just openly volunteers up information doesn’t make use of that power at all in my book and had to be the greatest error in the whole pilot). I would prefer the power being an inability to control your emotions and having them reflected upon those around you, a softer character could have done this (ie. in that same scene I just complained about, someone who was nervous and terrified of being around a mob boss could then emanate that same terror onto the mob boss to draw out a confession) and would also have allowed for character growth. I’m actually getting rather sick of these “Women are as hard as nails and can take charge in any situation” characters. Honestly – how many women do you know that haven’t admitted to/been seen openly weeping about something? Emotions are a great driving force for women. And in respect to the character of Watts, if she had been unable to control her emotions, don’t you think come PMS time that would have made for some awesome scenes between her and her supposed love interest Brandon… OR she’d just be so pissed off she’d be kicking some serious butt (and perhaps influencing the rest of the team to as well). See – doesn’t it sound more exciting already? But then… I didn’t write this show. Though I do love characterisation.
Carlos aka “The Human Smell” (Antony Del Rio) – The youngest of the clan, apparently able to emit nasty odours from his body since birth.
Where it went right: Dare I say, this character had the most productive use of his power (visually and in characterisation). Understandably still being a young teen, doing things like smelling out a pub for fun (or, er, because your new buddy’s best friend just yelled at him) is suitably immature for his age.
Where it went wrong:The narration was annoying. I don’t think it was entirely a bad idea, but it just seems it was executed the wrong way. For someone who probably loves comic books (though that was never completely established) and wanted to invent his own via his superhero life, it would have been more appropriately used to narrate the action scenes (where it wasn’t) rather than the mundane every day scenes and conversations (where it was). It would also have then been an excellent opportunity for Brandon to be both a leader and an ass by telling Carlos to shut up. XD
Todd aka 2 minute future man (Craig Eldridge) – The everyday family man blessed with the ability to receive blinding headaches and double vision shots of what will happen before him two minutes into the future.
Where it went right: This character was excellently introduced by first his vision and then a shot of him recalling what he’d seen. Unfortunately, that was about all the glory he got.
Where it went wrong:The security guard vision didn’t play out quite as well (although I did appreciate him saving Brandon’s ass). Also the first appearance of him and Carlos made me think they were father and son, which would have worked brilliantly given the chemistry (and the fact Carlos seems to know so much about him). Sadly the only family he was given was a wife and a baby offscreen which screwed with his character in that his abilities were reduced to an excuse for dialogue and although he was given a reason to leave (and we saw him leaving), he still managed to be in the next scene at the same place. Just a little bit of bad editing/bad storyline or both. He was an interesting character I would have liked to have seen more of.
Annika aka Sound imitator (Naoko Mori) – The woman who is able to vocally reproduce any sound she hears (and by that they mean voice impressions and cited dialogue… she’d be great on the comedy circuit!)
Where it went right: Great, she can do voice impressions. So can my brother. Can she do anything else? Maybe take some tips from Michael Winslow?
Where it went wrong: I’ll admit, there wasn’t enough time in the show to get to know EVERYONE that well (there were quite a few characters), but uttering two lines of dialogue in a voice other than her own didn’t help us get to know Annika any better.
Ethan aka Insect Man (Julian Richings) – The somewhat nervous/shy (I think that’s what he was going for) professor taken straight from university because he could talk to insects.
Where it went right: Although I had seen a very similar thing with bees on Grimm, the distraction of a million butterflys in the security booth was a nice use of powers. However bees (and cockroaches, and even crickets) are more scary… have to wonder when he’ll think to use those. The introduction with the insect on his arm also told us a lot about his character, though I fail to see how this will end up being a relevant power to use.
Where it went wrong: Someone else commented on it and I think I agree – retelling your story in a bar is not going to make it as memorable as showing it to us. Instead of throwing all the characters at us in one go, maybe it would have been wiser to discover a few of the more minor characters along the way. Sadly I felt Julian got better use out of being on SPN and would have craved to see that wicked sense of humour on here also.
Belinda Spackman (Andrea Martin) – The mothering single mother who wants her son to eat right and questions him with amusing one liners on his constant disappearances.
Where it went right: Everywhere. Andrea was SO funny in the role, and it was in this comedic relief that we saw the comedy show potential.
Where it went wrong: How dare they suggest Walter even THINK of moving out? His mother is hilarious!
Lily Thereoux (Alona Tal) – Girl next door (literally), lover of meditation, builder of homes for needy children in far off regions, motivational speaker for underachievers, best friend (or so she views it) of Walter Spackman.
Where it went right: I was bowled over by how endearing Alona was in the role (considering I really wasn’t fond of Jo on SPN and thought it was the actresses fault… apparently not). She was the kind of cute as a button girl you want around every week. But, being the reason for Walter’s bad day of all days I didn’t think she’d have much involvement after that.
Where it went wrong: It would have been a nice twist had the motorcyclist Walter sewer-trapped been Lily in disguise working for another secret organisation (hey, it’s plausible with the charity disappearance). Having Walter go back after she told him no, kiss her and expecting us to believe she would suddenly fall for him now he’d gained a little bit of confidence was also a no-no (really, where would you even see that in the real world?).
• Cassie’s power was THE BOMB. I would have liked to have kept her on the team.
• The age range. It was nice to see people from all different backgrounds and ages forming part of a team which differs from the usual superhero scenario as most characters are usually the same age. So it was like mismatched ages as well as mismatched powers – nice!
• The use of Walter’s powers on a lock mechanism was pure genius. As was the scene where he was starting up all the cars with Brandon and setting off the alarms.
• The team’s awkward enthusiasm to complete a job and being able to do so successfully (surprising themselves even) was fun to watch.
• Loved that Brandon would just dive right in (almost at the point of getting himself killed) with his little handgun, though I’d like a little bit more background on him to understand where all this proficiency came from (though, at a guess, I’d say his father trained him).
Ultimately I really liked it, and so did my mum who I forced to watch with me. I had to break the news that this was the only one. From the online reaction I’ve seen, everyone else had the same view – they liked it and wanted to see more. Most people actually claimed it was a better show than Alphas (which again I haven’t seen so can’t comment). And everyone seems to agree that it is a sad waste of talent to lose a show with so many (and even more than I thought!) cult tv personalities on it.