The Frankenstein riff Second Chance is one of those distinctively Fox-network science-fiction shows that has a brain and an eccentric spirit but mostly keeps it hidden beneath conventional elements: muscle cars, pop-fueled montages, nightclub scenes, a hero who looks like a cross between David Boreanaz and the “after” picture in an old bodybuilding ad. The juxtaposition of soulful weirdness and tediously conventional flashiness makes a half-involving pilot that doesn’t invite a repeat visit. This could be one of those cases where a new show finds a large enough audience to justify letting its freak flag fly, or we might be in for another Terra Nova, a science-fiction show with great promise that remained unfulfilled until the network canceled it. Right now it’s hard to call.
Rob Kazinsky stars as the aforementioned meat slab, who is actually the biological reincarnation of the deceased Jimmy Pritchard, a corrupt Seattle sheriff whose son, Duval (Tim DeKay of USA Network’s White Collar), atoned for his daddy’s sins by becoming a straight-arrow FBI agent. The elder Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall) gets thrown off a bridge in a sinister conspiracy, only to be revived by billionaire tech twins Mary and Otto Goodwin (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kalyan), who are working on a way to rejuvenate damaged flesh and, well, it’s Frankenstein.
Putting a 70-something, old-school, skull-cracking, pre-Miranda cop into the body of a professional wrestler would be more intriguing if the result didn’t play like a bro fantasy. As beefed up by the chemicals in the Goodwins’ hydroponic tank, Jimmy is a hypersexual meathead with keen investigatory skills. He can Hulk out and punch his way through any crisis, and he’s so potent that when he starts making up for lost sexual time, he warns a partner that she’d better get protection because she’s guaranteed to get pregnant.
Kazinsky is likable, but seemingly lacks the imagination to suggest depths that aren’t indicated in series creator Rand Ravich’s screenplay. He doesn’t sync up with Hall’s performance as the older version of the character. And that’s too bad, because it blunts the impact of the many scenes where Jimmy interacts with a grieving adult son who has no idea his dad is alive, much less that he’s standing right in front of him.
There are compensations, though: The emotionally fraught relationship between Mary, the CEO of the tech company, and her brother Otto, the scientific genius behind most of its advances, is fascinating, and DeKay’s performance as Duval is intelligent, sensitive, and often unexpectedly touching, never more so than when his secretly reincarnated father suggests that the elder Pritchard felt guilty for failing his children. Reincarnated Jimmy says this as Duval is walking away from a curb and toward his house; hearing his father’s proxy admission of shame, DeKay doesn’t shoot his scene partner a stereotypically angry or regretful backward glance — he pauses for moment, then keeps on walking.