Fox’s new drama series Sleepy Hollow bears as much resemblance to the Washington Irving story to which it has glommed on, as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters did to the German folk fairy tale about the two cute tots who nearly got baked. Which is to say, barely. The Irving short story, set in 1790, was about a superstitious schoolmaster in Connecticut who is competing with the Tarrytown troublemaker for the daughter of a local rich guy, but who gets frightened out of town when his rival lobs a Jack-o-Lantern at hime, while masquerading as as the legendary Hessian trooper who’d had his head blown off by a cannonball in the neighborhood during the Revolutionary War and who returns nightly to look for his head.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci has reinvisioned Ichabod as a superhero who is resurrected two and a half centuries later, finds the world on the brink of destruction and the Headless Horseman now one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. Rather than crawling into his bed and pulling the covers over his head, like you’d think, the guy who used to fear Jack-o-Lanterns instead rises to the occasion, teams with a contemporary cop, and unravels a mystery that dates back to the Founding Fathers, which is before even his time.
“It’s been done,” exec producer Len Wiseman said dismissively at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013, when asked why they didn’t do a show about Irving’s Ichabod. “We knew from the beginning we really wanted to show a different version… He’s tied to the apocalypse and part of a greater war… Yes, Ichabod will still be a professor “but our version is like the Clark Kent.” The schoolteacher “is his cover — his day job.” Crane is now an action hero who, in theory, died — or went to sleep — fighting for the “ideals” of this country, and now gets to see what became of those ideals.
The Headless Horseman on Fox had his head cut off by Action Hero Ichabod, and there’s some Rip Van Winkle — another Irving short story — thrown in for good measure though, Orci said, sadly there are no plans for a Rip Van Winkle character.
The creators of the Icabod Crane/New Testament/Rip Van Winkle/Superman mash-up did not invent the iconic-stories-in-a-blender school of storytelling. See ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
“Obviously, the success of the fantasy of stuff recently has whet the appetite of people,” acknowledged executive producer Mark Goffman, who insisted they’re simply “revising” the Icabod Crane story “in a way that’s really new and fresh.” And by “fresh” he means, “everything you know about how our country is founded is completely blown apart.”
We are such fans of Sleep Hollow growing up,” Kurtzman insisted, despite all evidence to the contrary. In their version, these Irving scholars will focus a lot of attention on the Headless Horseman. Among the things they will explore: How much personality can you get from someone when they haves no face with which to express, well, anything. Kurtzman said they’d hoped to have a scene in the pilot in which the headless horseman was being interrogated. HH can still write, can apparently hear, explained EP Len Wiseman. “You can have that communication – that kind of stuff…What I really love about this guy is, in our version the Headless Horseman is actually almost a mistake…once he gets his head back he’s part of that bigger picture,” Wiseman said.
Wait a minute – HH is getting his head back? Oh yes, only not in the first season, the producers said. Except in flashbacks. Meanwhile, Fox’s Ichabod, when not saving the world, is also trying to get in touch with his wife. Yes, Action Hero Ichabod had a wife, who is “trapped” in purgatory, “midseason,” or whatevs. She’s communicating with him in dreams, in which there are clues as to where she is and how to get her back. Goffman assured critics Ichabod wants to “rekindle” that relationship and bring her back.
Later this morning Fox programng chief Kevin Reilly said “Sleepy Hollow” is getting a plum Monday timeslot because it’s a “big tent show” like “Prison Break” and “24.” Washington Irving rolled over in his grave.