June 9, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “The Whispers”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE WHISPERS:  FBI psychologist Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe) is put on the case of seemingly normal children who–responding to whispers from an imaginary “friend” named Drill who speaks to them through electricity–create booby-traps for use on their parents, hack into secret government databases and commit similar heinous deeds.  It all has something to do with the secret Army plane that disappeared over the Arctic Circle… and showed up months later in the desert.  Its pilot (Milo Ventimiglia), who had been believed dead, just so happens to be Claire’s husband Sean, now wandering homelessly in the Washington DC area, covered with tattoos he can’t explain.  To make things just a little more complicated, at the time her husband and his plane vanished, Claire was having an affair with Wes Lawrence (Barry Sloane), the Defense Department operative who’s now in charge of the search for plane and pilot. (Wes’s daughter is another FOD–Friend of Drill.)  And then there’s Henry (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), Claire’s deaf son–deaf, that is, until his friend Drill miraculously cured him, a fact Claire doesn’t yet know.

Episode 2:  The second hour of The Whispers, written by series creator Soo Hugh and directed by Charles Beeson, was still in the mode of setting out its mysteries.  Although there were a few scenes featuring the various FODs, the episode was for the most part concerned with its adults.  In particular, with Claire’s attempts to keep her suspicious partner Rollins (Derek Webster) and then Wes from realizing that the bearded man seen lurking around the strange children’s playground was Sean, and with Sean’s–well, it wasn’t quite clear what Sean was doing, although he broke into his doctor’s home and stole both a shower and her gun.  During the former, he experienced some otherworldly attack that resulted in him drawing a tattoo-like design on her bathroom floor, one that tied in with the latest instructions Drill was giving Wes’s daughter.  In any case, Claire wanted to keep it to herself until she figured out what was going on.

As we noted last week, the mysterioso portion of a show like The Whispers is the part that takes the least effort.  It’s when the show has to settle down and start explaining things in a way that makes sufficient sense yet retains some surprise, providing a sense of progress while continuing to cloak some of its secrets, that it demonstrates its true mettle.  For now, the series is unwinding at a fair pace, without too much reliance on the characters being dunderheads, and it has an appealing lead in Rabe.  (Meanwhile, the show’s hero-worship of Executive Producer Steven Spielberg continues:  a sequence of one of the possessed children communicating with Drill through the static on a television set might as well have included an on-screen link to a clip from [the original] Poltergeist.)

The ratings for the Whispers premiere were fine for a summer series at 1.5–not an Under the Dome-sized breakout, but a number ABC would no doubt be happy to see on a weekly basis.  Each week, though, the cable competition becomes stronger on Mondays, and if Whispers can’t hold its narrative end up,  its numbers may in time become more difficult to hear.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  A Beach Read To Watch At Home

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."