17th Precient Pilot Uses Copious Magi-babble to Cast the Spell of Boring [Review]

Posted by on December 30th, 2011

17th Precinct from ddt73 on Vimeo.

io9 has posted the un-picked up pilot for Ronald D. Moore’s magician cop NBC pilot 17th Precient. We will post the embed here for as long as it stays up but should you not catch it, don’t worry.

17th combines all the worst tendencies of the final seasons of Battlestar with enough nonsense magi-babble to choke a unicorn. It also features startlingly generic performances from BSG favorites Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber and James Callis.

Plot-wise, the missing element in all of this is relatable human emotion. Partners Bamber and Callis somberly shuffle through the BFF buddy cop two-step giving viewers no reason to care if they live or die. Meanwhile, our plot is continually complicated by random magic elements and barriers that have no weight since they are being literally invented as the script moves along.

None of the main characters have any real skin in the game. It’s just a regular day at the “magical” office. Contrast that with other properties freely employing magical elements, Harry Potter and Pushing Daisies, which were packed with enough compelling human drama you could remove the spells and still be entertained.

io9’s Meredith Woerner revels in bits of creativity imbued into the universe.

We can understand how a pack of “Just Keep Making Three And A Half Men” executives might not grasp the white hot creativity burning from this one episode, because it hasn’t been done before. This world is, to put it bluntly, exceptionally weird. The energy sources are different (plants) their religion is different (Wiccan?) — even their paper is different (it’s a stream of smoke light people dip their fingers into, then they point to a paper and PRESTO — news.) All the same “weird sh-t items” we’re betting that Moore had to fight to save at every turning point on Battlestar Galactica. But these two dramas are only similar in two ways: their cast, and the fact that they demand the audience to jump into this brave new world, or else you can just show yourself out.

The props are not the play. We didn’t love the sawed off edges on every piece of paper in Battlestar because they were different. We loved the sawed off edges because the papers themselves contained grave warnings, great news and horrifying revelations. Subbing in frak for f-ck is iconic only if it’s a tool to express emotion, which through the bulk of BSG was done extremely well.

In 17th all these little flourishes, although certainly different, are left to die on the vine because they aren’t used to do anything particularly relatable or interesting.

If it took a bunch of meatheaded NBC executives to stop io9 telling me how much I was missing out by not watching this over a period of weeks, then let me know where to send the fraking fruit basket.

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