You're never sure what to expect with the Syfy Channel. It can be as brilliant as "Battlestar Galactica" or the best moments of "Eureka"; it can be as silly as some of its Saturday movies ... or as the way it decided to mis-spell Sci-Fi.
Now, however, comes a grand, seven-day stretch:
-- Sunday-Monday (Dec. 4-5): "Neverland" shows what can be done when an old story gets an epic re-telling. The Peter Pan story has great visuals and clever touches; at the end of this, I'll put the story that I sent to papers.
-- Tuesday (Dec. 6): All three series try odd Christmas episodes. "Eureka" is light (a bit too light, actually), "Haven" is serious ... and "Warehouse 13" is both, in a terrific hour at 9 p.m.
-- Saturday (Dec. 10): "Snowmageddon," from 9-11 p.m. Really. Lots of snow-related disasters happen, because of a Christmas snow globe. In its own, daft, way; it's modestly entertaining.
Anyway, here's the "Neverland" story:
By MIKE HUGHES
As Peter Pan soars anew, we're back to
You know the one, about a regular
British kid who's swept to a new world. That has spanned centuries,
from David Copperfield to Harry Potter.
The story works because so many people
have actually lived it. J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan's creator) was 6 when
his brother's death transformed his family. Charles Dickens
(Copperfield's creator) was 10 when his family moved from the idyllic
countryside to an overwhelming London.
And Nick Willing, the writer-director
of “Neverland,” the ambitious new cable miniseries? He was 12
when his family moved from the Portuguese country to London.
“My 'Rosebud' is Portugal,” Willing
said, a symbol of a childhood that changed abruptly. He went from
rural beauty to a cold urban scene. “It was a bit like Harry
Potter, looking up at these tall towers.”
So it probably shouldn't surprise us
that he likes signs of eternal childhood. “He is (Peter),” said
Charlie Rowe, who stars as Peter Pan. “I just (looked) at how he
was behaving and replicated it.”
Really? “I'm a bit older than Peter,”
said Willing, 50, “(but) I probably am quite a bit like Peter Pan.”
After a childhood that was briefer than
expected, Willing has spent his adult years on playful projects –
music videos and then miniseries about young people in new worlds.
His 2007 “Tin Man” went to Oz, the 2009 “Alice” to
Wonderland. Now Peter goes to Neverland.
There are rich characters there,
– Anna Friel as the pirate captains,
lusty and lethal. “It was kind of like being a child in the most
fantastic dress-up box you could ever imagine,” she said.
– Rhys Ifans as Jimmy Hook – not
yet a captain, not yet short-handed. He's Peter's hero and his
nemesis. He's also a swashbuckler; that took work for Ifans, whose
early training with sworda was so-so. “There were several injuries,
so I wasn't a great swordsman.”
– Bob Hoskins as Smee, the same role
he played in “Hook,” the Steven Spielberg film. “To me, he was
the embodiment of Smee,” Willing said. “I couldn't get him out of
– And Rowe as Peter. “He's really
an insecure kid,” Rowe said, “mixed up … all he knows is this
father figure, Jimmy. He still is naïve.”
That requires acting, because nothing
about Rowe suggests naïvete, insecurity or a Cockney orphan. His
dad, Chris Rowe, is a TV host; at 15, Charlie is outgoing, amiable …
and, on this particular day, at least, a snappy dresser. He also grew
up in Willing's neighborhood.
Willing gave him his first acting job
when Rowe, 9, starred in an episode of a British kids' show. Still,
he didn't think of him for the “Neverland” lead. “He was a kid
I knew from around the neighborhood.”
So Willing looked for Pan elsewhere. “I
must have seen 400 kids and then, right at the end, he walked in for
(a smaller role) and I went, 'Ah, (crud). That's Peter Pan.'”
Then the adventure began. Rowe found
himself on a giant ship off the coast of Genoa, Italy. And
re-creating 1906 London in Dublin; “it was a cobbly sort of
historical area.” And re-creating fantasy moments, while standing
in front of a green special-effects screen in Ireland.
“I suppose my least favorite is the
color green,” Rowe said.
Still, that's the color that lets him
star in THAT story about a British kid in a strange world.
– “Neverland,' a two-part,
four-hour miniseries on Syfy.
– Opener, 9 p.m. Sunday, rerunning at
11; conclusion 9 p.m. Monday
– Both parts air together Monday
(7-11 p.m., 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and Dec. 11 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)