This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until a few hours after publish time; we got a screener.
Should You Say (Captain) Howdy To The Exorcist?
Is there any good reason to let this show possess even a portion of your DVR?
What Is This Thing?
Of course you are familiar with The Exorcist, the pea soup-ruining 1973 film about a little girl suffering from -- it appears -- demonic possession. But though this show clearly wants to trade on any forty-three-year-old goodwill the motion picture has left, it's not a remake or reboot of the film. Instead, we meet two new priests who will take on a demon that's moved in with a new normal American family.
When Is It On?
Fridays at 9 PM ET on Fox.
Why Was It Made Now?
That is an excellent question! I suppose that the devil and his minions never really go out of style, and there are enough people who fondly remember being chilled by the movie (which, have you watched it lately? It's more funny than scary these days, in my opinion) that they can coast on that for a bit.
But, if you want to be really crass, you might entertain the notion that this is a piece of especially diabolical synergy, as the The Exorcist "Halloween Horror Nights" experience at the Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood just opened a few days ago. Coincidence? OR IS IT.
What's Its Pedigree?
The show's creator is Jeremy Slater, the man who wrote Flatliners ripoff The Lazarus Effect and the most recent version of The Fantastic Four. (So one could argue that he has a solid background in horror, though not of the intentional variety, ha ha.) This appears to be his maiden TV voyage.
Castwise, it's a mixed bag: we have the great Geena Davis as Angela Rance, who is -- based on the single episode shared with critics -- the standard Brittle Yet Powerful Lady Who Doesn't Do A Great Job With Her Family and Alan (cough Cameron cough) Ruck plays her Regarding Henry-esque husband who is actually named "Henry." On the priest side, we have Alfonso Herrera, whose background appears to be in telenovelas and being handsome, as Father Tomas Ortega; and Ben Daniels, who you might know from various British things (and probably not from Flesh And Bone, though he was in that too) as Father Marcus Keane.
Putting aside the basic issue that demonic possession is stupid and inefficient -- come on, if you really want to wreak havoc on earth, are you going to accomplish more by screaming and spitting or just keeping your shit together and infiltrating society? -- is it actually that scary in the modern secular age? This, I believe, is the show's first hurdle.
And if you can't scare people, you need to surprise them. Based on just the pilot, which is extremely, extremely piloty, there are few surprises to be had in The Exorcist. And that might not be entirely its fault! After all, when you know that the show is The Exorcist, you're kind of just killing time until The Exorcism, aren't you?
But notice that I said "not entirely." There's still fault to be placed on the show's shoulders, since so far the characters seem beyond stock, right down to Angela's inability to manage her bratty daughters and collared hottie Tomas's inability to avoid the sins of the flesh. You've met all these people before.
The question I posed earlier, regarding demonic possession in the secular age, isn't a bad idea for a show (I say in self-congratulation). With an evolving Catholic Church that's facing decreasing membership and seems in many cases to be fighting tooth and nail to remain in the dark ages, seeing a modern family (or, the mind reels, the Modern Family) forced to embrace the Vatican's medieval rituals sounds like a rich vein to mine.
Not that I am saying that that is what The Exorcist is doing! Unfortunately, most of the pilot seemed to be establishing the characters and constructs of the season, so it's kind of too soon to tell.
The expositional nature of the pilot might be yet another red flag, though -- as intelligent people might assume that anyone who turns on a show called The Exorcist has at least a passing familiarity with the concept of demonic possession and how its managed. So why does the first episode spend so much time explaining all that stuff to us? Frankly, it's a little insulting to think that the people who made this show worried that I'd need multiple scenes of another possessed kid to get me to the place where I'd understand what is going down at the Rances'.
And here's another question: how is the show going to successfully spread a single family's experience with possession and exorcism across a whole season? If the show is -- as stated in the press materials -- in the spirit of the film (and novel of the same name), then it's not going to turn into Constantine or Supernatural, it's going to remain a "small" story, not a monster of the weekly.
That means that we'll either have a boringly slow burn up to the good stuff (by which I mean network TV acceptable levels of profane yelling, head spinning, and vomit), or the good stuff will happen right away and get distressingly redundant. I am not sure which prospect I find less appealing, and I'm unlikely to stick around to find out.