Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
It’s official, everyone: we’ve reached peak buddy cop. It feels odd (if not downright tone-deaf) that, in a political atmosphere irreparably altered by enraging accounts of police brutality and corruption, major networks are continuing to turn the handle on an endless stream of derivative cop dramas, but here we are, swamped by a deluge of shows about unlikely-cum-predictable partnerships between vets and rookies, cops and robbers, straight-shooters and wild cards, grumpy curmudgeons and sunny optimists, tattooed amnesiacs and gruff soldiers, pill-enhanced brainiacs and normal sidekicks, and just about every other odd-couple pairing you can imagine.
But can we finally plead uncle and put an end to this epidemic of cop shows after Fox’s Second Chance? In basic network television’s most ludicrous twist on the buddy cop genre potentially ever, this funky-as-all-hell yet unquestionably rotting corpse of a sci-fi drama partners good and honest FBI agent Duval Pritchard (Tim McKay) with – wait for it – his biologically-younger-than-him father Jimmy (Rob Kazinsky), a murdered bad-boy sheriff resurrected in a younger man’s body by a genius brother-sister pair (Adhir Kalyan and Dilshad Vadsaria) hoping the same resurrection procedure will help the sister out with her terminal cancer. Let that sink in. The worst part? This show takes itself as a serious drama.
How bizarrely contrived is Second Chance‘s setup? So bizarrely contrived that not only does Jimmy immediately seek out his son and start solving cases with him – but that he does so while fending off the romantic interests of his own daughter (ew), solving his own murder (duh), and giving himself over to all the hedonistic itches he’s been dying to scratch for the past few decades (because god forbid someone writes a non-love interest role for a female character in 2015). Oh, and Jimmy’s resurrection has inexplicably afforded him superhuman powers. Because of course it has.
Now, something like Second Chance might just be able to work on a network like Syfy, where it would be allowed to let its freak flag fly, but as it’s on Fox, the show is fatally hobbled by its brooding, overly serious tone (someone needs to tell these execs to lighten the hell up).
There’s a dollop of existential angst about scientists playing god (or in this case tech whizzes responsible for the Google-esque Lookinglass, which has Minority Report-level access as far as predicting crimes goes), a tortured family dynamic, and surprising drudgery in its case-of-the-week stories, none of which allow the show to follow through on the sheer insanity inherent in its delightfully off-the-wall premise. As a result, it feels like a show torn in two, haphazardly throwing together Lookinglass’ science-fiction gobbledygook with its protagonist’s stabs at family reunion and police work.
Perhaps the revolving door of working titles Fox cycled through for the series (The Frankenstein Code, Frankenstein and Lookinglass among them) should have been a tip-off that Second Chance has just about no idea what it wants to be. Every time it threatens to go too far down its kooky, body-swapping rabbit hole, it’s held back by a slew of cop clichés; and similarly, its weirder aspects keep it from ever achieving a solid procedural tone.
A dearth of likable, believable performances further bogs down the proceedings. Kazinsky has all the charisma of a meat slab, while DeKay is essentially reprising his role from White Collar but doesn’t seem quite sure how to play the nutty father-son dynamic between Duval and Jimmy (it’s hard to really fault him for that, as the writers clearly have no clue either). And as the two tech-geeks, Kalyan and Vadsaria drown beneath waves of exposition-dump dialogue and atrociously tin-eared scripting. All of the performers on this show seem so barely conscious that they could use an invigorating blast of electricity to the neck bolts. Of course, it should be noted that they’re merely acting down to the quality of the material they’ve been given.
Above all else, what sinks Second Chance is its consummate laziness, from the regressive characterization of its non-cis/white/male characters to its reliance on the most threadbare tropes of the buddy cop genre. Lookinglass’ omniscient presence and Jimmy’s newfound super-strength (with other strange superpowers to come, natch) allow the writers to essentially write their way out of any narrative box, and given that the case-of-the-week stories seen so far are among the most uninteresting ever aired in a buddy-cop procedural, such forced plotting feels unnecessary – it’s hard to imagine anyone will still be watching by the 30-minute mark anyway.
With all the titles in the world to choose from, and more than its fair share of rejected ones, one has to wonder whether Second Chance is already imploring viewers not to give up on it – but unfortunately for the series, anyone who checks out the abysmal first four installments would have to as undemanding as an un-electrified Frankenstein not to.
A stone-cold corpse of a drama that's sorely missing the lightning (and even middling execution) it needs to come to life.