Grim_Noir Sends “ALPHAS” Back to Beta Testing

ALPHAS logo

Since “Heroes” fell apart and “The Cape” was a mess, I was rooting for Syfy’s “ALPHAS” to be the cure for my new weekly superhero jones.

In the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman, “Ho, Johnny, did you back the wrong horse!”

Right out of the gate, the show begins by misusing the word “synesthesia.” That may sound like a small quibble, except they repeatedly use it to describe one of the character’s power. Anyone who has read Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination” has already seen an awesome execution of what someone suffering from synesthesia should look/feel like. It is a serious medical condition NOT a superpower.

(The show goes remarkably far out of its way NOT to use the words “mutant” or “mutation,” however. Did Marvel trademark these scientific terms when I wasn’t looking?)

Next, we are subjected to the visual of David Strathairn wandering around in a Speedo drinking wheatgrass juice. Now, Strathairn is a great actor and part of the reason I was looking forward to this series, but there is not enough brain bleach in the world to get the image outta my head of the former Edward R. Murrow actor prancing around like that.

Also, I really enjoyed Malik Yoba in the old Fox show, “New York Undercover,” but making him the Alpha with super-strength was a little too on-the-nose. If this is a show about the powers of the mind, why does the physically largest guy have to be the one with super-strength? If you had traded his character with former “Bones” actor Ryan Cartwright’s semi-Autistic character, THAT would have been out-of-the-box thinking.

Fellow cast members Warren Christie, Laura Mennell, Azita Ghanizada, and Callum Keith Rennie, along with Yoba and Strathairn try gamely to jolt some electricity into this bolted together monstrosity. But they are ultimately given generic archtypes to work (“Hey, look! There’s pseudo-Bullseye! And sorta-Poison Ivy! And immigrant Supergirl, with just super-senses!”).

The Alphas prepare for a group hug

Director Jack Bender worked on “Alias” and is no stranger to keeping things moving along briskly and with some panache. He even knows when to take his foot off the gas and let the conspiracy gibberish be spun out for the viewer to follow.

A little research reveals that the entire fault of this show lies at the feet of the writers/creators, Zak Penn and Michael Karnow: Penn scribed such cinematic drivel as “X-Men 3,” “Elektra,” and the live-action “Inspector Gadget,” while Karnow started out his “career” as a staff writer on Chevy Chase’s late night talk show.

Penn and Karnow try WAY too hard to create “quirky” characters in the USA Network template. Instead, they pile so many annoying character traits onto each actor that they come off more as bags of quirks with feet.

Worse yet, they use all of the tropes in the lazy writer’s playbook for creating suspense. The team is six members strong by the last act of the pilot episode, yet somehow the plan is always for one person to go charging into the dark room with no back-up…and usually when that characters is “zoned out” using their power. By the thrid time this happened in the pilot, I was zoned out.

It was recently announced that “Star Trek” (“Next Gen” and “DS9”) producer Ira Stephen Behr would be taking over creative control of “Alphas,” going forward, but it may be too little, too late, as Syfy has a positively Prussian intolerance with lack of success.

Ultimately, “ALPHAS” is breezy enough for what it is, however what it is ain’t much. You would be better served watching reruns of Richard Burgi as “The Sentinel.” I would even score the old “Mutant X” series far above this. Mainly because that show accomplished a lot with no budget. And because John Shea had the good sense to never be photographed in a man-kini…

* GRIM_NOIR is: A) Mad, B) Bad, C) Dangerous to Know, D) Now with 50% More
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2 Comments to “Grim_Noir Sends “ALPHAS” Back to Beta Testing”

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  1. Ok, so I watched the first two episodes. I was far from impressed, but then I remembered it’s on ScyFy channel. It didn’t make me like it any more, but was worth a watch.

    I miss Heroes.

  2. Grim_Noir says:

    Yeah, I still miss “Heroes,” too, Uncle D.

    I’m not saying that “Alphas” is the worse thing ever. It is more like when the lights come up at 2 AM and your buddy is at the bar hitting on the cougar that everyone has been with: Sure, it will be a good laugh in the morning at his expense, but a true friend would point out to him, “Dude, you can do SO MUCH better…”

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