David Strathairn headlines the new superhero series.
© Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
The new series in question is the latest ordinary-folks-with-superpowers series, called Alphas (this is still marked as a working title). In the context of this series, "alphas" is the name for ordinary citizens with hyper-developed neurological talents. The show centers on a group of alphas who form a team to investigate cases involving extraordinary mental and physical abilities that suggest the activity of others like them--trying, as crusading crime-fighters so often are, to uncover what the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon have not been able or willing to solve.
Syfy has ordered 11 episodes, not counting the 90-minute pilot, and has slated it to air in summer 2011.
The series has been in the pipes a while. In 2007, ABC Studios started and set aside the project, then called Section 8, from writers Zak Penn (who, fairly or not, gets a lot of the blame for X3; his current credit is The Avengers) and Michael Karnow. Then in August 2009, Syfy approved a 90-minute action/adventure pilot from its sister company Universal Cable Productions, directed by Jack Bender, formerly the director/executive producer of Lost. The pilot went before cameras in Toronto in June 2010.
The cast of Alphas includes veteran actor and recent Emmy-winner (for Temple Grandin) David Strathairn (Bourne Ultimatum) as team leader Dr. Lee Rosen, along with Warren Christie (October Road), Malik Yoba (Defying Gravity), Laura Mennell (Watchmen), Ryan Cartwright (Vincent Nigel-Murray from Bones), and Azita Ghanizada (Blood Shot).
Has the Joe Superhero bit run its course? I think if anything, it's gaining traction. Stories involving established costumed superheroes have been emphasizing the tribulations of the alter ego since at least Superman, but the split personality still keeps half of the hero at arm's length from the audience; early Smallville and Heroes, despite the latter's own inability to sustain the effort, underlined the possibilities inherent in the Joe Superhero concept by killing off the oversimplifying duality. Meanwhile other supernatural tales--particularly Being Human--have taken this approach and run with it with great success.
The latest crop--the middling-to-good No Ordinary Family, Syfy's Being Human, The Cape, Three Inches (which is reportedly being tweaked to be less like Alphas), and now Alphas--seems like it's establishing the new way to tell superhero stories, by emphasizing character over power. Next year may be a good year for superhero drama.
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