After the recent failed attempts of the superhero shows The Cape and No Ordinary Family, I had very low expectations for SYFY’s new TV program Alphas [Mondays @ 10pm]. The only mistake SYFY has made thus far is labeling Alphas a superhero show in the first place. One of the creators of Alphas, Zak Penn, whose resume includes writing the superhero screenplays for The Incredible Hulk, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Elektra, has made a very conscious effort to make the abilities of each of the Alphas as scientifically believable as possible. As each of the Alphas is introduced, their abilities – not superpowers – are explained and demonstrated, using visual effects to help make the explanation even clearer. Each of the Alphas abilities even has a drawback or weakness, which I think helps add to the realism as well.
Unlike traditional superheroes, the Alphas do belong to a loose knit group, yet they don’t wear any sort of costume or uniform. I also like the fact that although they work in cooperation with the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense, they are not officially affiliated with the government. This is reflected in the main character Dr. Lee Rosen, who seems to be a free-spirit scientist, whose hobbies include collecting classic rock on vinyl. Rosen, the tactical and spiritual leader of the Alphas, is not above using the abilities of his Alphas for good, but he is still very protective of them. As a neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen is able to not only help the Alphas understand and use their abilities more affectively, but also treat their sometimes fragile emotions and mental states as well.
I like all of the five Alpha characters. Bill Harkin is the least likable of the five, but part of that is because as a former FBI agent, he still needs to be in control and seems to have trouble working with a group of untrained civilians. Gary Bell is the most likable and sympathetic character, but his ability and perceived handicap will restrict this character's physical involvement in future cases. Nina Theroux is the "babe" of the group, but what makes her interesting is her ability makes her able to control every aspect of her life and yet her cool detached exterior appears to be a cover for a deeper unhappiness. Cameron Hicks is interesting because of his complex past, which includes being a former army sniper and minor league baseball pitcher. Unfortunately, the writers have stuck him with the dramatic cliché of being a divorced Dad with an estranged son. Rachel Pirzad's abilities are the least believable but the most useful to the group. Fortunately, her abilities also make her the most vulnerable when she uses them; making her the most dependent on the group for protection.
Surprisingly, I really liked Alphas! I suspect the reason is that I have always liked SF that dealt with human beings that are able to use their minds to extraordinary ends. For me, this has always been the most realistic of science fictional rational for people with "superpowers" and that gives me hope that Alphas could be one “superhero” show that has the ability to last more than one season.