Debris

1 out of 5

Created by: J.H. Wyman

covers season 1

Not that Fringe was always top-tier TV – or even consistently great – but it absolutely fulfilled a safe, quirky sci-fi gap in weekly viewings, plugging the X-Files / Lost-shaped hole it was intended to. In relatively short order after its concluding came Almost Human, which was a little tighter and less mystery-boxy and thus – in my mind – better, once more giving us a fix in this genre-hungry vein. And J.H. Wyman was pretty heavily involved in both of those, writing a good chunk of the former and creating the latter. So: his next show, Debris, absolutely had my attention. Not in hopes for anything mind-bending – that’s not the pedigree of the aforementioned shows – but just that it would once more fill that stylistic need, and maybe even last beyond a season.

The description worked: alien spacecraft bits have been crashing to Earth, causing oddball, and unique, catastrophes in their vicinity. Toss in government agencies – MI6 and CIA – who are playing together to collect the pieces, but independently machinating secret government oogie boogie stuff in the meantime, and then also have some shady bad guys trying to nab the stuff for their own evil agenda (led by Scroobius Pip!), and you absolutely have me sold. Jonathan Tucker as our CIA guy is a bonus.

But wow is it not good. Maybe not necessarily bad, but it’s, like, sinfully bland, going out of its way to dodge out of any potential complexities or plot quirks for the easiest (and dumbest) of weekly resolutions, with the spycraft enacted by all parties something on the level of what someone in the writers’ room who’s only worked on teen comedies might pitch on their first day.

Bryan – Tucker – is partnered with MI6’s Finola Jones (Rianna Steele), and the duo are tightly welded to masculine and feminine stereotypes that should be dated by now: Bryan is tight-lipped and duty-bound; Finola is emotional and tears up at every event, because they involve feelings. Yes, her father, to her knowledge, has recently passed, but the way she segues into misty-eyed speeches without any provocation is akin to people telling stories about their babies or new pets at any opportunity; but maybe more noxious than this is the way the speeches are always used for Finola to suddenly realize some key to solving that week’s debris puzzle, and that they hardly make sense in this function. This is a “sci-fi” series that cannot cobble together enough pseudo logic to make it through any given scene, and world-builds in the most lazy manner possible, using its “Laghari” readings to rate some type of range impact of the debris in an inconsistent manner. Sometimes we need protective gear because that rating is in the hundreds! Sometimes we can just tip-toe and then it’s okay! Anyway, don’t worry about it because Finola will start to cry and there will be no story carryover to next week!

That latter bit is more the matter: I can deal with loosey-goosey inner-workings if episodes have any sense of stakes, or if there’s the notion that we’re building to something, but no one on the show acts or speaks with any real authority or believability in their roles – Tucker and Steele are given maudlin language, making it hard to suss out their acting abilities – and episodes float in some nether-realm of never resolving things because they’re all connected, but making each week’s entry seem wholly isolated at the same time.

I admittedly kept tuning in because… because I want a sci-fi show like this, and I kept thinking that we were just one turn from things getting better, or at least tolerable. But I guess the “twist” here is that that’s not the case. It’s pretty dumb the whole way through.