'Second Chance' needs a jolt to liven its sci-fi crime-fighting plot

'Second Chance' needs a jolt to liven its sci-fi crime-fighting plot
Rob Kazinsky plays a reinvigorated, superhumanly strong crime fighter in “Second Chance.” (Sergei Bachlakov / Fox)

"Second Chance," a new sci-fi procedural premiering Wednesday on Fox, is a sort of "Six Million Dollar Man" meets "Damn Yankees" meets "Diagnosis: Murder," in which a cop returns from the dead to become the younger partner of his FBI agent son.

For a good part of the pilot, the great and venerable Philip Baker Hall plays Jimmy Pritchard, a 75-year-old former sheriff in Washington's King County, where Seattle sits. Jimmy has left office in disgrace; we are given to understood that he could be a little elastic with the law in the pursuit of justice. Now he is just a smoking, drinking, prostitute-employing old reprobate, hanging around in his bathrobe, being paid occasional uncomfortable visits by son Duval (Tim DeKay, "White Collar"), who has an unsolved case Jimmy is recreationally trying to solve. He runs afoul of a conspiracy, or a conspiracy runs afoul of him, and he winds up dead, dumped off a bridge in a staged suicide.


Meanwhile, in the hills above town live twin siblings and social-media billionaires Mary and Otto Goodwin (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kaylan); they have brains as fast as computers and computers indistinguishable from brains. Otto fits the usual genius-on-the-spectrum profile: Apart from an artificial intelligence named Arthur (voice of Scott Menville), his sister is the only person he talks to. She's his one connection to the world, and she is dying.

Jimmy, it turns out, is the perfect match for something pseudo-scientific, the DNA match whose one-in-a-million rebuilt blood, transfused, will somehow save Mary's life. And so the twins "initiate Phase 1" and then "initiate Phase 2," and Jimmy (henceforth played by Rob Kazinsky) not only comes back to life but comes back half his former age, superhumanly strong and unrecognizable to any of his relatives. He still has a taste for fighting crime, though, in what he is pleased proprietarily to call "my city."

There is a Cinderella twist that requires Jimmy regularly to return to his vat of magic of science for recharging, as one would expect; Mary, though she is fatally ill, is otherwise not only completely healthy, but ready to go sleuthing when the occasion demands. There is no real drama, existential or physical, in either situation. As science, it's all just magic. The gleaming machinery that accomplishes the series' miracles — including Otto's ability to hack into any machine, anywhere — might as easily be newt's eye and henbane, or the work of a wand, or of the devil. (See Fox's upcoming supernatural procedural, "Lucifer," for comparison.)

Creator Rand Ravich earlier created "Life," in which Damian Lewis played an oddball detective trying to solve the case for which he was wrongly imprisoned, and "Crisis," a complicated serial thriller involving the kidnapped children of Washington, D.C., bigwigs. He seems to be aiming lower here; there are serial elements involved — the characters know more about one another in Episode 4 than in Episode 1, but generally speaking it's a mildly philosophical episodic crime show with some quirky characters not as deep as they might seem. Jimmy and Mary flirt; Otto frets; Duval fumes.

As if to balance Jimmy's superhuman speed and strength, the villains here have been made particularly nasty, running more to murderous nut cases than to your more ordinary sorts of baddies. That said, by current standards the show isn't particularly graphic or brutal and, indeed, works best the closer it comes to comedy and romance. When it tries to go deep or dark, it feels overwritten and overwrought; as light entertainment, it's passably diverting, not without charm.

Twitter: @LATimesTVLloyd


'Second Chance'

Where: Fox

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Rating: TV-14-DLV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)