Science-fiction-type shows come in threes this week, with Fox's modestly intriguing "The Passage," CW's "Roswell, New Mexico" and Syfy's "Deadly Class," which is another case of what might be called "The Remedial Hogwarts School of Television."
Think "Vampires, aliens and assassins, oh my."
Space and astronomy
Each is based on prior source material -- in sequence, a best-selling book trilogy, a 1999 TV show and an Image Comics graphic novel -- reflecting the hunt for any advantage in terms of an established fan base to help get such programs sampled.
"The Passage" is the most promising of the three, even if the early episodes have a too-familiar feel to them, and are just serialized enough to keep pulling the audience along, without providing complete faith that this journey is going anywhere -- or at least, heading in a direction that would warrant sticking around for the duration.
Man is again his own worst enemy, having gone hunting for a cure to all disease -- at a secret facility known as Project NOAH -- and instead unleashed potential Armageddon. In this case, it's breeding a strain of vampire-like creatures, who will suck the life out of their human captors -- the ones who've been experimenting on them -- if given half a chance.
Also sucked into this world is federal agent Brad Wolgast (Paul-Mark Gosselaar), who is tasked with tracking down an orphaned young girl, Amy (Saniyya Sidney) who may hold humankind's salvation. But given the shadowy forces that are after her, the two wind up on the run together, with the not-so-good guys in hot pursuit.
"The Passage" unfolds along multiple tracks, including what's happening inside the research facility, presided over by Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick, providing a conspicuous link to "Lost"). The better example might be the earlier Fox show "Wayward Pines," which, like "The Passage," started off well enough, before running into a ditch.
It's too early to say whether "The Passage" will share that fate (three episodes were previewed), but the show offers enough serialized momentum to maintain interest, without completely sinking its teeth into you.
"Roswell," meanwhile, pretty dutifully recycles the format of its predecessor on the WB, with a few modest alterations to the sexy-aliens-among-us DNA.
Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) returns to her home town a decade later, where she finds her high-school crush, Max (Nathan Parsons), who's now a local police officer. But after she's inadvertently shot, he uses his powers to save her -- and thus is forced to reveal that he's one of three aliens living in the city whose name is synonymous with UFOs and government cover-ups.
There's more to it than that, but basically this revival (under "The Vampire Diaries" producer Julie Plec) is an excuse to set up another star-crossed (literally, in this case) soap opera, albeit with more sex than the earlier incarnation.
While the name evokes images of crashed spaceships, "Roswell" never quite takes off.
Finally, there's "Deadly Class," airing on Syfy, and claiming "Avengers" directors the Russo brothers among its producers. For the most part, it's a tedious adaptation other than the late-1980s Reagan-era setting, about an ill-tempered teen (Benjamin Wadsworth) who is recruited to attend a secret academy for assassins and the progeny of crime families, pairing him with all the social malcontents and dangers that entails.
The casting helps -- with Benedict Wong as an instructor and Lana Condor as a mysterious classmate -- but it's hard to get too excited about what feels like the eighth or ninth show about shadowy schools for unusual teenagers, one reason that the concept for "Deadly Class" feels so deadly dull.
"The Passage" premieres Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. on Fox.
"Roswell, New Mexico" premieres Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. on the CW.
"Deadly Class" premieres Jan. 16 at 10 p.m. on Syfy.