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Freeform's Beyond also beckons a binge


Feeling haunted in the woods is never advisable. Freeform photo

Premiering: Monday, Jan. 2nd at 8 p.m. (central) on Freeform with the first two episodes
Starring: Burkely Duffield, Dilan Gwyn, Romy Rosemont, Michael McGrary, Jonathan Whitesell, Jeff Pierre, Peter Kalamis
Produced by: Tim Kring, Adam Nussdorf, David Eick, Steven Adelson, Dan Friedkin, Justin Levy, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones

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Logistically at least, Freeform’s Beyond goes one step beyond.

The network previously known as ABC Family is taking the Netflix/Amazon stratagem for a spin by making all 10 Season One episodes available to coincide with the supernatural series’ conventional Jan. 2nd premiere. So if your New Year’s resolutions don’t include swearing off binge-watching, you can start knocking them off via On Demand, freeform.go.com, the Freeform app or Hulu.

Being of sound mind and still in holiday season layback mode, your friendly content provider watched the first four episodes in preparation for this review. Beyond, whose executives producers include Tim Kring of Heroes fame and later infamy, is the fairly diverting tale of a Fort Reed, Kansas kid who’s knocked into a 12-year coma after wiping out in the woods on his mini-motorcycle while being chased by some jerks in a monster truck. He’s in his 20s upon awakening, but can’t shake some very disturbing nightmares and visions. It turns out that Holden Matthews (Burkely Duffield) has been fighting some sort of good fight in a futuristic netherworld. He’s also developed an array of superpowers.

Beyond that, Holden is clueless and increasingly dependent on the mysterious Willa (Dilan Gwyn). “You’re in danger. Trust no one,” she initially writes on his arm while Holden and his younger brother, Luke (Jonathan Whitesell), are out clothes-shopping.

Willa, who’s otherwise devoted to her infirm bizarro grandfather, strives to re-connect Holden to their past and highly eventful life together in “The Realm.” But a creepy dude dubbed “The Man In The Yellow Jacket” (Peter Kalamis) also has an agenda. And it can be a lethal one.

Beyond’s cast also includes Holden’s rather tiresome parents, Tom and Diane (Michael McGrady, Romy Rosemont), who have a little secret of their own. But things tend to lag when they’re in the mix. All that really matters is how and when Willa will break through Holden’s resistance. “Your memories are trying to force their way out,” she tells him in Episode 3. “But you’re stubborn.”

A little too much patience is required at times, but the first four episodes do include a brief glimpse into a pretty cool looking netherworld during Holden’s chemical injections at the hands of Willa. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jacket character keeps skulking around until something pretty graphic happens to him in Episode 4.

Freeform, which re-branded with that title on January 12th of last year, is striving to grow further beyond the dreaded “wholesomeness” of the ABC Family label. The principal target audience is now millennials rather than pre-teens and their watchful, approving parental units. Even so, the Fort Reed of Beyond is still depicted as a town where Holden and brother Luke are expected to dress up and wear ties(!) to Sunday church, even if the attractive and helpful pastor may or may not have something going on with Mama Matthews.

Also, as much as it yearns to cut ties with The 700 Club, Freeform remains contractually saddled with it under the terms of an earlier deal that seems likely to be eternal. The televangelism hour still airs nightly at 10 p.m. (central), and will immediately follow the two-hour premiere of Beyond. Pat Robertson and his offspring have been unbending when it comes to any buyout offers. It’s enough to make a millennial flee to even the Hallmark Channel. And Beyond or not, Freeform just can’t get beyond that.

GRADE: B-minus

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