Sunday, August 20, 2006

TV: Kyle XY -- SEE!

Somedays we wake up and see the news from Iraq and can't remember how we got there? We could swear someone said "mushroom cloud" and someone said "WMD" and someone said "liberation" but it's all so hazy now.

We feel like, if we could just reclaim those memories, we'd know the goverment did us wrong.

Seems like everytime we get close to the truth, some snarky man pops up and tells us that, for the good of everyone, we need to stop searching for answers and just focus on the present. If the snarky man wasn't named Thomas Friedman but instead had the monicker Thomas Foss, our lives might be a lot like Kyle XY.

Kyle XY showed up out of nowhere -- both onscreen and off. Off, it showed up in a package dropped off by a friend (package contained episodes and scripts) with a note that we could go to town on it if we wanted. Kyle XY? Oh the review could write itself! ABC provides Kyle XY, you provide the Zs.

But the reality is the show's far better than much of what's on the air -- unlike Supernatural, for instance, it actually has suspense. A goo covered Kyle (played by Matt Dallas) arrives from nowhere. He brings with him neither memories nor belly button but is taken in by a foster family, the Tragers. Who is he and why can't he remember? More importantly, who is the creepy Thomas Foss (played by X-Files Nicholas Lea) who always seems on the verge of losing it in a violent fit (and possibly screaming "The World Is Flat!").

Foss is the local security for the Tragers' neighborhood or was, until he creeped out mother and doctor Nicole (played by Marguerite MacIntyre). Now he's officially out of their lives but that doesn't stop him from showing up at their door step, following Kyle around or watching what goes on in the Trager house via hidden cameras. (Ken Starr wishes he were Foss!)

We didn't expect much from this show which airs on ABC Family but is also currently airing on ABC proper (broadcast TV) each Friday (for at least two more episodes) so we were surprised by the look of the show which is closer to film than TV (the look is very Halloween H20). We knew, this being ABC Family, the violence would be more implied than overt (like your basic Thomas Friedman column) but we weren't counting on the suspense factor being so high. This Friday's episode, specifically the carnival, will set up the season finale and many shows, as they move to their season enders, tend to pick up elements they let lag all season long, but Kyle XY hasn't lagged. (It is true that it's first season will be only ten episodes long.)

In terms of estrangement, it actually reminds us of the British (classic) series The Prisoner. Possibly that has to do with the camera shots which don't overdue the close ups and instead make strong strides to establish the locale as a character via wide shots.

Here's where the show is thus far, Kyle's found out this much. He looks exactly like a young man who disappeared in the eighties which, Kyle being a teenager, poses several questions. Kyle visited the place the man was thought to disappear in, a woodsy area that also had a fenced in compound. When Kyle attempted to climb the fence, Thomas Voss showed up first to fight him and then to warn him that he didn't want to know, that it was better (safer) for his foster family and everyone if Kyle just let it go.

What else do we know? Kyle can calculate like a computer. He has extreme intelligence skills.
Which leads to questions of whether he's the man who disappeared (and somehow the aging stopped), an alien (a popular conclusion of the youngest Trager, Josh played by Jean-Luc Bilodeau), a clone, or one of the experiments of the now dead Professor William Kern (played by Bill Dow)?

The show is suspenseful and it manages that feat without cheesy sound effects. The performances are all strong and Chris Olivero deserves to be singled out due to the fact that, even stuck with the generic sub-plot of I-love-her-but-she-doesn't know (his Declan is in love with Trager daughter Lori, played by April Matson), he's made a very strong impression.

For ten episodes, the show has stayed suspenseful and involving, whether that level of suspense will hold up for the second season (only 13 episodes have been ordered), we don't know. But here's what we do know, ABC (broadcast) had one of the worst lineups all last year. This despite having several shows that were huge in the ratings. To cite only one example, it never managed to find the show that would build on (or even stop the bleeding) from Lost. This year, it breaks up the ratings hit of Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives as it attempts to increase its nightly ratings by building Thursdays around the medical drama (comedy/romantic comedy/ melodrama/soap opera). So it's more than a little shocking that one of their stronger efforts (stronger than most of the new shows they paraded in the fall and spring) is shunted off to ABC Family.

This isn't the X-Files and we're not trying to imply that it is . . . yet. But it's already more involving and suspenseful than a season of Supernatural (or, for that matter, any season of Roswell). Possibly because it's on ABC Family (which limits the amount of flesh, violence and other things that can be displayed), they've had to work harder at the actual story line? The attention to detail shows. And at a time when polls consistently find that Americans are against the war (the war the administration, aided by a compliant media, lied the nation into), that the trust level post-Hurricane Katrina is low, and that even on their trademark fear card of 'terror' doubts about the administration have risen, a show about a young person figuring out the world around him and who he can and cannot trust could score well with viewers.

A number of e-mails (Ty says thirty-one) arrived from readers saying they did check out Psyche last Monday and enjoyed it. So here's this week's tip, Friday night, ABC (broadcast), check out Kyle XY. See if it isn't one of the better shows you're not already watching. (And you've got one more episode on 'free TV' the following Friday.) In a year that saw the Water Cooler Critics embrace, fondle and mount this decade's one-camera, no-laugh-track, Courtship of Eddie's Father while swearing it was "funny" (flashback, Water Cooler Critics back in the day praised the mild proceedings on Eddie and other so-called sitcoms as "funny") and that worked so hard to steer you to the thankfully cancelled Don Johnson vehicle, they've, according to your e-mails, repeatedly let you down. We know you're looking for something beyond Water Cooler cred and we'd argue Kyle XY offers you that and plenty more.
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