The process of adapting major movies for TV has given us a number of varied interpretations over the years, even this past TV season, as series like Limitless take the direct sequel approach (with a supporting role for Bradley Cooper), while others like FX’s Fargo borrow only a few basic concepts. FOX’s Minority Report tends more toward the former, picking up some years after the film’s events and sketching out a few basic backstory points (and characters), but mostly looking to set up its own status quo.

For what it’s worth, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. Steven Spielberg remains unmatched as a storyteller, both visually and narratively, and a slavish recreation of the original Minority Report’s washed-out blues and sharp edges wouldn’t necessarily translate. Unfortunately, the absence of that visual identity, even bolstered by the presence of some nifty future tech, leaves FOX’s Minority Report a bit paint-by-numbers as crime procedurals go. There’s potential, but it needs … ahem, foresight.

Such an ill-thought moral center definitely doesn’t work in the show’s favor.

Apart from all the visual future flourishes (many of which feel familiar from Almost Human or Fringe), the burden falls mostly to the charisma of its leads, only two of which even get the chance to shine amid such a busy plot*. Meagan Good’s Lara Vega presents charming and capable enough, looking to make a difference in a post-PreCrime world, albeit saddled with the requisite cop father backstory, while Stark Sands’ Dash reads understandably blanker. His past isolation and visionary gifts afford some familiar levity when paired with Vega in social situations, and it’s worth hoping the series leans into that more over time, if only for a bit more overall personality.

*FOX notably delivered the finished pilot only a few weeks ago, owing to reshoots and the introduction of Nick Zano’s fraternal PreCog twin Arthur, and leaving a number of pieces from the trailer on the cutting room floor. The same characters are otherwise in play, though it leaves the pilot a bit noticeably patchworked, cutting down on existing character beats.

Vega and Dash naturally pull focus, which also leaves Li Jun Li’s Akeela given next to nothing to do as Vega’s friend and colleague, and an even blander turn for Wilmer Valderrama’s senior Lieutenant Will Blake. Daniel London also puts in a frenetic return as PreCrime caretaker Wally, while it seems the most attention went into fleshing out Dash’s twin Arthur as a heel of sorts for future episodes. Again, the character’s arrival feels notably disconnected  from the main threads, given Zano’s late entry into the series, but still emerges slightly more promising than others nonetheless.

“They canceled ‘Awake’ for this?”

Still, the most intriguing aspect of the series itself may end up one Minority Report never consciously intends to address: the title, and thereby the film. The words “Minority Report” serve a function in either iteration; in neither case does any character actually have the differing future referred to, though the very idea of a Minority Report suggests that futures can be changed. And yet where both pay lip service to this fact, the film uses the ultimate abandonment of PreCrime as a parable, where the series relies on it to function on a weekly basis.

Dash feels moral obligation to help those in his persistent visions, while Vega grows tired of “mopping up messes,” rather than preventing crimes, but does Minority Report have any distinction to make between stopping violent crimes in the act, or stopping them minutes before? Can they arrest perpetrators, should anyone happen to intercept a crime early? Not to mention, Minority Report’s seemingly omnipotent surveillance works as an invaluable police tool, even positioning “Hawkeye” as a PreCrime replacement*, but one wonders if the series intends to explore the moral questions that drove the film in the first place.

*The pilot puts at least some effort into hinting at a larger, more world-building plot with roots in the film, but such an ill-thought moral center definitely doesn’t work in the show’s favor.

Pilots are pilots, and Minority Report has work both ahead and behind it. The only question worth asking, is if anything about the series can deliver anything to stand out from the procedural pack, apart from its title. Tangentially, I wasn’t enamored of the Sleepy Hollow pilot either, and that certainly found some stride, while Minority Report will inevitably draw comparison for its pairing of a young, cynical cop with a fish-out-of-water key to solving mysteries. In earnest, I can very much see Minority Report working over time, but like its lead, the pilot has too many pieces missing to paint a clear portrait of its future.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • There’s definitely notable effort to recreate certain moments and action beats from the film, but even without a bluish tint, I can’t help wishing some of the future tech were more visually in sync. Cars driving vertically is a budget stretch, but no oddly-shaped police choppers? Weird zip-lines instead of jet packs?
  • It’s network TV, but sheesh, put someone average-looking in the police precinct, or anywhere, please.
  • “Peekaboo, bitch.” :::eyes roll into next decade:::
  • Yes, there is a future Simpsons gag, and even an Arrested Development reference if you’re looking carefully.

FOX’s Minority Report will premiere on Monday, September 21 at 9:00 P.M., following the Season 2 premiere of Gotham.