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Opinion

The marketing-angle slogan for this show is, "What would you do with a second chance?"

The viewer reaction is likely to be, "Why should we care when you haven’t proved you deserved a first one?"

Second Chance, a new Fox drama that puts a clumsily updated spin on the timeless Frankenstein saga, arrives in prime time tonight (8 p.m., Fox) with a storyline and character roster that are unlikely to prompt anyone, anywhere, to shout, "It’s ALIVE!"

Maybe it’s a case of too much tinkering in the script-writing lab and too many mismatched parts in the assembly of the creature. It’s probably unfair to describe the end product as monstrous or horrifying, but calling Second Chance the unfortunate byproduct of a botched experiment seems like an apt response to the series pilot.

Second Chance follows the life-death-regeneration of Jimmy Pritchard (played in early scenes by veteran TV actor Philip Baker Hall), an aged and ailing former Seattle cop who resigned his post in disgrace a couple of decades earlier in the midst of a corruption scandal.

He has a difficult relationship with his son, Duval (Tim DeKay), a mid-level FBI agent who favours a strictly-by-the-book style of law enforcement rather than the fast-and-loose approach that led to Jimmy’s career demise. Whether Jimmy was actually a crooked cop or just a righteous rule-bender who got set up to take a fall seems certain to become a central issue in however many subsequent episodes make it to air.

While engaging in his usual curmudgeonly behaviour, however, Jimmy stumbles upon evidence that Duval’s fellow agents could be genuinely dirty; before he can pass this information along, however, the filthy feds haul Jimmy to the outskirts of town and toss him off a bridge.

Which, in retrospect, might have been a good way to end Second Chance. But as it turns out, his death catches the attention of Mary and Otto Goodwin (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kalyan), the mysterious twins behind one of the world’s most successful tech firms. They ascertain, using the advanced computer wizardry they’ve invented, that Jimmy’s DNA contains a rare element that could be the key to an experiment aimed at saving the life of the female twin, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The scientists hack into the morgue’s database and change a few numbers, and suddenly they’re in possession of Jimmy’s body, which is suspended in a vat of electrically charged fluids and is morphing, over a period of weeks, from a broken-down 75-year-old former sheriff into a muscular and devilishly handsome 35-year-old stud.

When he awakens, the new version of Jimmy also turns out to have something approaching super-strength, which will be helpful when he heads out into the world in search of answers and justice.

The gimmick that keeps brand new Jimmy connected with the twins is that he can only be out on his own for a certain number of hours before his new body starts to reject itself; if he doesn’t return to the tank for a recharge, he’ll die.

But during his "I’m alive!" time, Jimmy finds a way to involve himself in Duval’s life and cases, prompting his special-agent son to wonder just who this "friend" of his late father really is. Oh, and new Jimmy also finds time to indulge in the vices (booze, hookers) that filled old Jimmy’s days before his unfortunate watery plunge.

It might seem as if there should be enough interesting elements here to create a lively, action-driven drama, but Second Chance never succeeds in bringing them together in a way that creates any sort of pulsing energy. Hall, whose role is limited, is fun to watch, and Kazinsky tries his best to bring a roguish charm to his confused-creature character, but the other actors seem content to flatline their performances in a pilot that never reaches a state of full animation.

It will doubtlessly be given a second chance — in the form of a second episode next week — but the future beyond that seems very uncertain.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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