A couple of weeks back we previewed the then-upcoming new Fox series, Sleepy Hollow, by taking an advanced look at the protagonist, Ichabod Crane. Now that the pilot episode has aired, it appears that my early trepidation was unwarranted.
The show’s initial offering was smartly paced. It laid out plenty of clues for future intrigue but it managed to spell out enough of the story to bring viewers into the know. Sometimes stringing out the mystery by raising more questions than you answer works. The first season of Lost is a brilliant example. But sometimes, it doesn’t work. The last season of Lost is a good example.
Sleepy Hollow told us a great deal of information in just 42 minutes. We know how Ichabod was preserved for the last 250 years. We know who and what the Headless Horseman is. We know that Abbie had a supernatural experience as a child that left her sister less than sound, mentally. We know we won’t be seeing any more of Clancy Brown. We know that Orlando Jones is now a “serious actor” and won’t be providing the comic relief we hoped for.
Too much information too early can ruin a show. That can be just as dangerous as refusing to answer any questions at all. If we learn all we need to learn and the characters develop too quickly, the show can become unsustainable within a season or two. It’s very early, but I think that Sleepy Hollow has struck the right balance. We’ve learned much but we still don’t know where Ichabod’s wife is, what really happened to Abbie and her sister, or why the Horseman has returned at this particular moment in time after two and a half centuries of oblivion. And who, what, and where are the other three horsemen?
The premier episode of Sleepy Hollow did its job. It laid the groundwork for a promising new series. And Fox’s gamble of pushing the premier up on the calendar seems to have paid early dividends. Ten point one million viewers tuned in to see the first episode of the heavily-promoted series. All those ad dollars spent during Sunday afternoon football games packed in the viewers as the show scored especially well among the coveted 18-49 demographic.
Now the real work begins. The early premier meant limited competition for the show. Starting with week two, Sleepy Hollow will face big boy competition from the other three networks plus the seemingly endless gamut of cable channels. Bringing viewers in may be easier than keeping them, but Sleepy Hollow has all the parts in place to keep audiences coming back week after week.