I’ve always liked Frequency, the 2000 movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caveziel as a father and son separated by years but brought together by ancient technology. True, a ham radio that can send messages across the decades is almost as silly as that letter box sending love notes through time in The Lake House, but, like The Lake House, Frequency is one of those movies that, while I don’t seek it out, if I happen to catch it while channel surfing I’ll happily rewatch.
I have already mentioned my love of/compulsion for television adaptations of favorite movies, and so there was never any doubt I would be giving this show a look. What was in doubt — what is always in doubt, in these abundant televisual times — is whether or not the show would be compelling enough to keep me tuning in week after week, when there is so much else to draw my attention. After all, the film’s crime procedural hook — that of the Nightingale serial killer — has already been resolved to my satisfaction. Do I really need to see it played out again?
The answer is: yes! Enough changes have been made to the show that I am inclined to believe a genuine surprise is awaiting us at the end of the Nightingale case (which is still included herein), and the across-time redemption of our heroine’s once-benighted father was a very satisfying conclusion to an hour of television that was far more suspenseful than it had any right to be, especially as it — also like the film before it — involved far more talk of baseball statistics than one would normally associate with nail biting action.
Instead of a son here, our — very young — Frank Sullivan (Riley Smith) has a daughter, Raimy (Peyton List), who grew up to be an NYPD detective, just as her father had been. (In the film, he was a firefighter.) Raimy had always believed that her father was a dirty cop gunned down when too deep undercover to distinguish right from wrong, but after some tinkering from her boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Bonjour) and a fortuitous lightning storm, Raimy connects with her still-alive father back in 1996 — yes, via the ham radio — and is able to warn him of an impending set up. He survives, history is rewritten, with only Raimy aware of the difference.
Of course, there must be consequences to all this meddling with the time stream, and by the end of the episode Raimy is back on the ol’ ham to Dad, because while they may have averted one disaster, they have just precipitated several others within the frankly trouble-prone Sullivan clan. And the Raimy of the future needs the Raimy of the past to help her…
Cast-wise, List and Smith are both excellent, as are Mekhi Pfeiffer as a fellow cop and the very Terry Farrell-looking Devin Kelley as Raimy’s mom, who are fairly convincingly aged for their 2016 scenes.
Now, I am no fan of time travel stories, and, in fact, sometimes wish we could do away with the genre as a whole. It’s an often headache-inducing maelstrom of paradox and causality that I could mostly do without. (Sorry, Doctor, but you know its true.) But when time travel — or, in this case, time radio — is done well, it can be a particularly clever narrative device, and here, as in other time bending police procedurals, like Awake and Life on Mars, it is done very well indeed. Our main players commit completely to the lunacy of it all, after perfectly adequate levels of disbelief, leaving us strongly invested in the happy family life they can surely conjure for themselves if only they can work together in both the 90s and the present day.
Ah, the 90s. I never realized I was so nostalgic for those heady days until I saw all the plaid shirts and heard Green Day on the soundtrack. Thanks, show, for the memories! Now go forth and make some new ones of your own. I’ll be watching.
SEASON PASS: Yep