In Washington Irving's classic short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," humble schoolmaster Ichabod Crane possesses an "exceedingly lank" frame and a small, flat head with "huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose." To see him striding along on a windy day, Irving wrote, you might mistake him for "some scarecrow eloped from a corn field."
That's strange. In the new Fox drama, Crane, as played by hunky Tom Mison, is a dashing Revolutionary War hero.
Oh, and he also time travels to modern times, where he teams up with an attractive female cop (Nicole Beharie) to take down a machine gun-wielding Headless Horseman in order to save the world.
SLEEPY HOLLOW: Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie, L) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison, R) go on a hunt to discover an unidentified boy's origins in the "John Doe" episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW airing Monday, Oct. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Brownie Harris/FOX (Fox)
It's tempting to wonder what Mr. Irving would think of the stunning makeover bestowed upon the iconic literary character who debuted in 1820. Would he be aghast? As for TV viewers in 2013, well, they're eating it up.
"Sleepy Hollow" was the first new show to premiere this fall and became the season's first breakout hit. For the record, I didn't see it coming. In my annual fall TV overview, I dismissed the show as convoluted, nutty nonsense. While heads rolled on the screen, my eyes kept rolling in their sockets.
But the "Sleepy Hollow" premiere episode decapitated its rivals, drawing more than 10 million viewers -- a fat number in these challenging times for broadcast TV. It was the highest-rated drama debut for Fox since 2007. Another good sign: Ratings for "Sleepy Hollow" in recent weeks remain robust, and the show is among prime time's biggest gainers when DVR viewing is added to the mix. Fox has ordered a second season.
So how is the rest of broadcast TV's freshman class faring? Here's a rundown of the biggest winners and losers so far:
The winners "The Blacklist" (NBC): James Spader's crime drama debuted to even bigger numbers than "Sleepy Hollow" with 12.6 million viewers, thanks in part to a healthy lead-in from "The Voice." The fact that Spader is mesmerizing as a former criminal fugitive now aiding the FBI certainly doesn't hurt. I actually did see this one coming, as "The Blacklist" made my Top 5 list of new fall shows. NBC has given the series a full-season order. "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC): Let's call this one a hit -- with qualifiers. The highly hyped "Avengers" spinoff from Joss Whedon made a big initial splash with nearly 12 million viewers but saw its audience erode an alarming 34 percent in Week 2. Still, it has given ABC a pulse on Tuesdays, where it has the difficult task of leading off the night against "NCIS," TV's most popular drama. ABC has ordered a full season, but unless "S.H.I.E.L.D." can stabilize -- and generate more exciting storylines -- it could be in trouble. "The Millers" and "The Crazy Ones" (CBS): These mildly amusing Thursday night comedies benefit greatly from the crazy-huge ratings pulled in by the night's leadoff hitter, "The Big Bang Theory," which regularly flirts with the 20 million mark. Sometimes being lucky -- and in the right time slots -- makes up for a glaring lack of comedic brilliance. Both shows have been rewarded with full-season orders. "The Originals" (The CW): This spinoff of "The Vampire Diaries" is getting respectable ratings for The CW, where much lower audience numbers are acceptable. Even more encouraging: Its viewership actually grew last week. The CW has ordered additional scripts.
The losers "Lucky Seven" (ABC): The dramedy about big-time lottery winners failed to hit the ratings jackpot. It was yanked off the schedule after only two episodes. "We Are Men" (CBS): Another show gone after only two outings. Maybe the sight of Jerry O'Connell was just too much for viewers to handle. "Dads" (Fox): The Seth MacFarlane live-action comedy was slammed by critics before it even debuted. Viewers don't seem to like it either. NBC's Thursday night comedies: So whatever happened to "Must See TV"? NBC had huge hopes for "The Michael J. Fox Show," but the comeback has fizzled so far. "Sean Saves the World" and "Welcome to the Family" are duds as well. "Hostages" (CBS): Apparently, the audience for this dark thriller has been abducted. "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" (ABC): Ratings have taken a steep plunge down the rabbit hole. "Ironside" (NBC): The wheels quickly fell off this cop-show reboot. It has been axed. "Betrayal" (ABC): It's an affair we don't want to remember.
Contact Chuck Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.