Tower Prep New Kid on Cartoon Network's Block
· Drew Van Acker
· Elise Gatien
· Ryan Pinkston
· Dyana Liu
· Ted Whitall
· Paul Dini discusses Tower Prep
Photo: Justin Stephens
TM & © Cartoon Network.
All Rights Reserved.
Television Review: Tower Prep, "New Kid (Pilot)"
by R.J. Carter
Published: October 19, 2010
Somewhere between the brochures for Hogwarts and the Xavier Institute, parents may find a dangerously unassuming pamphlet for Tower Prep, a special school for kids with special abilities. Of course, kids never want to go to this school, so they're never told they're going to attend -- until they're already there.
That's what happens to Ian Archer (Drew Van Acker), when he awakens in a strange dorm room one morning with no memory of how he got there. Panicked, he finds escape seemingly impossible -- the school is surrounded by woods and a concrete fence on one side, a sheer cliff on the other. Stymied in his efforts, he turns his focus on learning more about the school and its Headmaster (Ted Whitall) while following an unusually taught curriculum. Before long he finds others who feel the same as he does, and a friendship is formed.
Tower Prep is a new live action drama for kids debuting October 19 on the Cartoon Network. The spotlight is on the athletic Ian, who exhibits a talent for the martial arts, but whose real edge is his ability for "preflex" -- he's a half-second ahead of everyone else, and can react accordingly. His newfound friends have abilities of their own. Gabe (Ryan Pinkston) is hypersuasive, and can talk himself out of anything. CJ (Elise Gatien) reads facial tics and non-verbal cues like a second language. And Suki (Dyana Liu) is a spot-on mimic, who can imitate anyone after just one meeting. Together, they will learn why they've been brought to Tower Prep, and maybe even learn a little something about themselves in the process.
Orientation. Ian visits the Headmaster's office.
(l-r) Drew Van Acker, Ted Whitall.
Photo: James Dittiger. TM & © Cartoon Network. All Rights Reserved.
The series runs to the low-budget end of things, which is good from a production perspective, and forces the writers to get more creative with actual storytelling rather than relying on flash. However, with the intent of the show being to draw in younger eyeballs, this reviewer wonders if at some point the creators will have to push the SFX a bit more toward Smallville and a little further away from Sid & Marty Krofft, vis-a-vis the mysterious glowing-eyed guardians that patrol the woods around the campus.
Despite the low-level abilities, which fall just a bit short of being actual superpowers, Tower Prep holds the creative promise for some interesting stories that rely more on interpersonal relations and inscrutible mysteries than it does on fight scenes. This owes to the pedigree of the writing staff, which includes -- besides creator Paul Dini -- X Files alumni Glen and Darin Morgan, among others. The confined campus coupled with the anonymous nature of the staff (teachers are referred to by their area of study, such as Math, Science, Coach) highlights the whole "otherness" that the protagonists struggle with as they explore this new world. Monitoring their progress is the all-seeing eye of the master computer system, Whisper 119, which controls everything from curriculum to security, and adding one more element the students must be aware of in this adventure.
Tower Prep debuts Tuesday, October 19, 8pm | 7pm CT on Cartoon Network.