Our First Time… Watching SANCTUARY

There are many in the television industry who believe that if a show doesn’t catch an audience right out of the gate, it will never be able to gain a following. It’s this logic that causes networks to cancel a series after two episodes… and which completely ignores the fact that by this standard, legendary sitcomes CHEERS and SEINFELD would have been dead before concluding their first seasons. In this recurring feature, we’ll sample episodes of shows which we’ve never seen despite their having been on the air for a season or more and try to determine just how easy it would be for a newbie to jump in midstream. This week, in anticipation of tonight’s return, we decided to take a look at Syfy’s SANCTUARY. The episode we watched was a two-parter called “Kali” which originally aired on Friday, January 15.

The Premise, Best As We Can Tell: A team of scientists from around the globe study creatures known as “abnormals.”

What It Reminds Us Of: If STARGATE-SG1 mated with THE X-FILES and allowed their offspring to be raised by a dumbed-down TORCHWOOD, this might well be the result.

What Works: Against all odds, just about everything, at least if one is looking for mindless-but-fun entertaining that won’t make you any smarter… but won’t necessarily leave you dumber, either. The plot of “Kali” revolved around the search for a small, spider-like creature which, once inside a host, allowed that person to psychically link with a beautiful woman who, in turn, controlled a gigantic, underwater arachnid capable of… oh, you know, the kind of worldwide destruction that’s always a danger in these types of shows. (Did I mention that you can contact the gorgeous woman by doing a Bollywood number? ‘Tis true, and it was an oddly hysterical highlight of the episode!) The special effects aren’t particularly special — the show but if you’re a regular viewer of Syfy, you’ve seen far worse. CGI technology allows the show to tell bigger stories than it might otherwise be able to do within its budgetary restraints, and while it is sometimes pretty obvious that the actors are on empty soundstages acting on green-screen-produced sets, the quality if far better than one might expect. The cast — including Syfy-channel mainstay Amanda Tapping — is pretty darn good except for… 

What Doesn’t Work: … Agam Darshi, whose Kate is wildly annoying. Perhaps both the actress and the character are from the “she’ll-grow-on-you-over-time” school, but as I watched my first episode I kept hoping she’d wind up eaten by an abnormal or meeting some other interesting-yet-fatal-fate.

Accessibility: Despite the fact that the episode was the second-season finale (and a cliffhanger to boot, which I didn’t know going in), there was virtually nothing a new viewer couldn’t quickly figure out. A quick trip to wikipedia immediately after viewing “Kali” clued me in to the fact that there’s a rather interesting and detailed mythology behind several characters, and yet there was nothing in the episode that left me confused or feeling lost.

Tune-In Factor: Would I, as a completely new viewer, watch another episode? Not only would I, but I’m almost ashamed to admit that despite the show’s somewhat hokey feeling, I let out a strangled “Nooooooo!” upon discovering it was a cliffhanger, and then immediately went to Syfy’s website to find out when the next episode will air. (Fall 2010? Seriously? Who do you think you are, Syfy… HBO?)

SANCTUARY returns Friday October 15 at 8PM on Syfy (9PM on Space in Canada)

For all the latest TV news and reviews

  • I had a chance to catch up with either Warehouse 13 or Sanctuary, and back then, I picked Warehouse 13.
    Do you recommend Sanctuary?

  • Ace

    Sanctuary is on Netflix instant and I gave it a try last summer. It was too hokey for me and was one of those shows that everything was so dark that I felt like you couldn’t really see anything (one of my biggest TV pet-peeves). Didn’t make it beyond the pilot.

  • lifeonqueen

    Love Sanctuary. Love it. Great fun, great characters and Bigfoot!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I’m shocked at how forgiving you are of “Kali.” I watched both seasons, and I like the show (for the most part), and even I found the season 2 finale to be craptastic.

    Everything you described about the little spider, the psychic links, the armageddonly-large sea spider (named Big Bertha of all things), and absurd dance number that you count as positives are enormous negatives for me. I vaguely remember watching the season finale and saying out loud several times, “What the hell is going on right now?” The finale was just random nonsense.

    It originally aired both hours in one night (January 15th), and I couldn’t figure out if they combined it because they thought they actually had something that would feel like a movie or if they just wanted to get it over with, like ripping off a band-aid.

    And, again, I emphasize that I like the show. I think there were a couple dud episodes in season 2, but overall I still like it. But, that s2 finale is one reason why I’m just barely excited about tonight’s premiere. Hopefully, they will redeem themselves in s3.