At the risk of sounding overly cynical, I hope I’m not the only one who has ever watched a series and immediately thought, “Wow, this absolutely sucks.” It’s only happened a few times (see: “Taken”), but it’s almost comical when it does. To have such a glaringly and obviously terrible show is hilarious to me — it always leads me to try and imagine simply how and why the series was greenlit in the first place. I mention all of this, of course, because this was my exact reaction upon screening the pilot of Syfy’s “Superstition.”
At the time I watched “Superstition” ’s excuse of a premiere, I was in a sort-of shitty mood from our loss to Penn State Saturday evening. I was exhausted, down and, to top it off, my buddies at Penn State were flooding my phone with texts about their blowout victory. I needed a reprieve from my grief and, oddly enough, I found that much-needed shot of optimism through “Superstition.” As I settled in and began taking notes during my viewing, I had to force myself to stop ripping every element of the show because it was getting exhausting. Instead, I took a more entertaining approach and started focusing on how hilariously bad this episode is, but even that wasn’t enough to redeem this masterpiece in garbage television.
For “Superstition,” its issues are rooted in its downright awful writing. The series is centered around the occult experiences of the Hastings family, who operate a funeral home in a quaint Georgian town. Aside from the overdone Southern gothic trope, this basic idea isn’t awful in and of itself, but its already weak storyline is hardly propped up by its dialogue, which is stiff and awkwardly phrased.
In one especially horrific scene, the town sheriff, Officer Westbrook (Demetria McKinney, “House of Payne”), speaks at a murder scene to a local Satanist, who claims to Westbrook: “We brought this upon ourselves, Chief Westbrook.” The line was so forced and cringe-worthy that I had to restrain myself from doubling over with laughter. In what world does a regular person, let alone a Satanist, call a police officer “Chief”? Maybe I’m harping on one word, but the entire line reeks of being one of the most boring and awkward-sounding things I’ve heard on television in a while. And that’s saying something considering that I saw the trailer for “Geostorm” this morning.
Next on the laundry list of problems inherent in “Superstition” is, like most bad television, its “acting.” In fact, the only actual acting happening in the series is its cast pretending that they’re actors — yes, it’s that terrible. Playing the Hastings family patriarch, Mario Van Peebles (“New Jack City”) is entirely unconvincing in his plethora of clichéd wisdom and obvious desire to be a cop in another life. As the prodigal son returning home, Brad James (“For Better or Worse”) isn’t able to arouse any sort of emotion or sympathy for his character from the audience. Rounding out its utterly disastrous cast is McKinney, whose tone-deaf performance begs us to ask why Hollywood assigns police officer roles indiscriminately.
As awful as its acting remains, “Superstition” ’s visuals are somehow nearly just as bad. Armed with a camera that I would guess is from the 18th century, the series offers zero sense of visual appeal. With hardly any exterior shots, “Superstition” seems perfectly content to stay indoors, despite its bland set design. Exemplified by the Hastings house, the sets of each scene are hastily and generically generated, causing me to believe that the only research the writers did for this show was to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and hope that Southern stereotypes of grandfather clocks and creaky mansions were still in-vogue.
Witnessing such blatant indolence in Hollywood astounds even me, but it also makes me glad that sites like Rotten Tomatoes exist to give each new movie or show a single, simple review score so as to punish these lazy artists and push viewers and their dollars away. If Hollywood hasn’t learned its lesson about lazy stereotypes yet, I’m (unfortunately) not sure it ever will, but at least audiences can steer clear of “Superstition” and let Hollywood’s latest small-screen blunder fall flat on its Satanic face.