'Gravity' director asks us to 'Believe'

Posted: March 11, 2014

* BELIEVE. 10 tonight, NBC10. Moves to 9 p.m. Sundays next week.

TV DIRECTORS sometimes complain that they don't get the recognition - or clout - of their big-screen counterparts.

That shouldn't be a problem for Alfonso Cuaron, the Oscar-winning director of "Gravity," whose new TV show, "Believe," premieres tonight on NBC following "The Voice" (after which, yes, "The Blacklist" will return to Mondays and "Believe" moves to Sundays).

Because curiosity about what he'd do for a TV show may draw even viewers who weren't already watching "The Voice" (or tuning in expecting to see James Spader).

Cuaron, who directed the pilot, co-created the drama - about a supernaturally gifted little girl named Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), who's on the run from dark forces - with Mark Friedman ("The Forgotten"), and also shares producer billing with J.J. Abrams ("Fringe," "Lost").

Anyone expecting something as original (or vertigo-inducing) as "Gravity" will be disappointed. Even in the kids-in-jeopardy subgenre of gifted kids on the run - Fox's doomed "Touch," NBC's soon-to-be-revived "Heroes" - "Believe" doesn't do nearly enough to stand out, beyond some very pretty blue butterflies and a declaration that only the bad guys will be carrying guns.

That's the word, at least, from the mysterious Milton Winter (Delroy Lindo), who's apparently made it his life's work to protect Bo, whose uncontrollable powers apparently don't yet extend to protecting her foster parents from the dark forces.

Those dark forces, by the way, seem to be having a lot more fun than the good guys, even though there also seem to be fewer of them.

Kyle MacLachlan is Skouras, chief representative of the bad guys. He gets to swan around in a tux, picking up humanitarian awards.

Milton? He's dressing up as a priest who'll try to break a prisoner named Tate (Jake McLaughlin) off death row minutes before the man's supposed to be executed.

You'll figure out who Tate is long before Milton tells his team, by which time Bo will also have insinuated herself into the business of this week's guest cast, using the power of her mind to change the course of their lives.

In other words, yes, they'll have been touched by a telepath.

Sequoyah does her best with Bo, but there's something a little off, tonally, about "Believe," which requires her to play someone whose seemingly controlled emotions may unleash uncontrollable powers and asks us to care more about her than about the collateral damage she leaves in her wake. Except when it tells us to care.

"A girl lives among us. She will change the world. If she survives," we're told at the beginning of "Believe."

I guess I'm going to need more than a single episode to decide if what Bo has to offer is actually the change I want to see in the world.

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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