Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TV Show Review: Helix

I wanted to like this show...I REALLY did.  I gave it three episodes but now I have to let it go.

The premise is right up my alley.  A kind of sci-fi show revolving around a secret biological facility in Greenland that has been working on various scary viruses and one gets "loose" within the facility's population, drawing in a team from the CDC to look into the matter.

You have the clean background of the arctic vs. the black goop that the virus turns the infected body into.  You have the mysterious corporation that is trying to control the virus for its own purposes. And you have all of this on the SyFy channel where you hope the program can be a bit edgy, dark and odd...

Unfortunately I should have known better from the network that has made its bones recently off of broadcasting WWE wrestling and movies like Sharknado.

Sure, there are a few qualities about the show I like-- Hiroyuki Sanada as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake is quite good as the lead corporate scientist in charge of the facility.  I first saw him in Danny Boyle's Sunshine and he is quite good in his role.  And there are some of the special effects--particularly the body ones where human bodies have been liquified or an infected individual spreads the virus to another by disgorging the black goop in mouth to mouth contact with its target.

Unfortunately SyFy meager budget, poor casting and weak directing kills the show for me.  Some of the props (Hello high school science lab face shields??  What are you doing here??) and special effects are EXTREMELY cheap, giving the show a decidedly D-movie feel to it at times.

The casting is also extremely weak...likely driven out of budgetary reasons.  Billy Campbell is barely acceptable as the head CDC scientist and primary character in the show but the supporting cast (outside of Sanada) is BRUTAL.  Beyond bad.  Like so bad I want to turn my eyes from the screen bad.  There is nothing believable or remotely realistic about the acting by most of the cast--made all the worse by terrible wardrobe choices as well.  The head of security for the base is a chubby male in his late twenties who looks about as ready to secure a facility as I do to join the Navy Seals.  And this is just one of the numerous poor casting and wardrobe choices for the characters.  The choices seem almost childlike in their stupidity--like someone was making a joke of a scifi program--virtually every single one is a disaster of one proportion or another.

Lastly the directing--its like someone threw a catalog of good scifi movies at the directors and said--here!  Make a TV show like this!  In the first three episodes we have direct ripoffs of the scene from Alien where Tom Skeritt searches for the titular monster through the metal airshafts as well as a scene from The Thing where Wilfred Brimley wields an ax against his comrades.  Each scene is so blatantly ripped off its like you are watching a Simpsons parody of the real thing.

This is all truly a shame as SyFy but a lot of marketing and focus on this series as a seeming attempt to get back to real programming.  It unfortunately fails on far too many levels for me to spend any more time with it.

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