"Sleepy Hollow": Making Sense of the TCA Comments

Getting on Twitter leads to me learning a lot about the world in entertainment (as well as real life, because goodness knows Twitter is much quicker than the news stations nowadays). So imagine my surprise when I found out that Sleepy Hollow, a show I’d been worried about for a while now, is really having the renewal trouble I feared.

The trouble has led Fox to come up with some plans to fix the show. As we all know, Sleepy Hollow went from being a ratings darling to becoming the Baby Jane of the network. Now, since their star pupil is doing so poorly as a sophomore show, Fox is planning on giving it some remedial classes.

“We’re excited about some creative changes on the show and bringing it back to something that feels a little more episodic in nature, that has closure and doesn’t feel quite so serialized,” said Fox TV CEO and chairman Dana Walden. “But we really love the show. We love Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. They have fantastic chemistry. We feel like it’s a really unique series.”

Walden also said that Fox heard the mountain of criticism that S2 has had and are responding to it in their own way. “We are responding to a little bit to — not necessarily the criticisms — but this show has a high level of difficulty,” she said. “It’s a relationship show, a period show, you have iconic characters, you’re trying to tell mysteries and the show got a little overly serialized this past season. It’s very difficult on a show like this to get the exact right balance.” Honestly, we felt watching the show, as passionate viewers, the show got too serialized.”

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She stated that Fox is going to work through what went wrong and what works for Sleepy Hollow, which is that the show’s at its best when it’s fun and bonkers in a highly entertaining way.  “We’re trying to return the fun to it a little bit,” she said. “It’s an epic battle between good and evil, so there’s a tendency to be a little dark. It’s all about calibrating the show, not about making dramatic changes.”

She also said that there weren’t any creative plans in the works at the moment, but the goal is to make the show more accessible to people than the serialized approach. She also said that although she’s holding out on renewing the show, she’s “hopeful” that it’ll come back for a third season.

So what do I see in all of this? If I’m going to read tea leaves and PR speak, then this is how I see it, per what I wrote on Twitter.

Here’s why I wrote what I did, since 140 characters doesn’t allow for nuance. I have heard murmurings of Fox brass wanting Katrina bumped up for S2 and more characters (aka white people) added to the show to make it more “palatable” for other viewers. These rumors could very well be true. But it doesn’t add up to me just from how S1 ended, with Katrina getting pulled out of Purgatory .

Katrina has always been a big part of this show, even when she wasn’t on screen (and even when we wanted her dead). Also, Fox saw how much people loved the diversity of the show simply from the ratings. This would lead me to think that Fox gave the writing staff and EPs Carte Blanche. “Whatever you’re doing is working— keep doing that,” is what I’d imagine Fox brass said to the writers.

For Fox to intervene and say to stop doing something that’s working doesn’t make a lot of business sense, which leads me to think that the Katrina mess is on the backs of the writing team. They’ve never had her fleshed out as a rounded character in S1, so it would only make sense that they’d have trouble getting her act in gear in S2.

If anything’s the fault of Fox in this scenario, it’s the decision to make the show a full 18 episodes instead of the truncated 13 S1 was. It’s clear that the writers had a better sense of pace when they had less shows to deal with. There was no time for filler episodes or stupid sideplots. There was only enough time to focus on Abbie and Ichabod’s mission, and I hope Fox will be smart enough to take the series length into the equation.

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Walden says there are no creative plans in place as of right now. Some are taking that to mean that Katrina, Hawley, or any other superfluous character won’t be gone. I don’t believe that just yet. I think everyone who’s not Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood and Orlando Jones better start lining up some other projects just in case.

Right now, Fox doesn’t have any idea of what it’s going to do, but if you go back to S1, you’ll see that there was less Katrina and happier fans. The writers mucked up badly by making the show all about Katrina, which is why I think Walden used the code-word “serialized.”

With Katrina in the show (and Henry, for that matter), it’s much more about family drama and drawing on that shaky foundation for storylines. The lack of Katrina in S1 left more time for the show to focus more on the characters, their personal development, and, of course, finishing the missions. Also, in S1, viewers didn’t have to view each episode since they would always recap (almost to an insane degree) during the first five minutes of each episode. I mean, it was still suggested to watch each episode, but now, you really have to watch each episode to know what part of Crane Family Drama we’re viewing now. In short, I think the show will still be serialized once (or if) it gets fixed, but not so serialized when it comes to Crane Family Drama.

Lastly, I just want the show to focus on Ichabod and Abbie not in the sense that I want Ichabod and Abbie to fall in love, although I wouldn’t be mad if that happened. The tweet about Ichabod and Abbie is not about love; I just want Ichabod and Abbie to be the central characters again, regardless of shipping. (Or rather, the only central characters apart from Jenny and Irving.) This core group is who the fans really want to see and are attached to. They make the show for us. Superfluous characters can be bumped off for all I care. What Fox needs to do is separate the wheat from the chaff where characters are concerned.

EDIT: One quick thing: The fact that there’s no S3 renewal is because, I think, there’s the fact that everyone has to agree on whatever the changes are. I think whether the show will get renewed comes to if everyone’s on the same page.

What do you think of this news? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Sleepy Hollow photo credit: Fred Norris/FOX

Dana Walden and Gary Newman TCA photo credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX