As a network, The CW has been quite successful in creating shows aimed at a very specific demographic, an audience of teenagers that are still very much in the process of abandoning their childhood and getting ready for adulthood. The CW formula has been able to create stories where the light and the darkness are often placed in very equal measure so as to never bother practically anyone. This lack of risk in the way the network produces its shows has become a meme unto itself.
Shows like Supernatural, Arrow, The 100, and the rest of the Arrowverse were filled with very cool ideas that sadly suffered from a lack of resources and some truly misguided execution. There are rumors that The CW Times is over and that soon the network will be dismantled, and its resources used for something else, something greater and better. Sadly, this rumor sounds like the best choice Warner could take with the network.
Tom Swift is a science fiction TV show produced by The CW and stars Tian Richards, LeVar Burton, and Ashleigh Murray. The show is based on a series of novels created by Edward Stratemeyer. The series tells the story of Tom Swift, a billionaire inventor that sees himself trapped in a conspiracy involving the death of his father after he goes on a mission to Saturn. The series sees the character reinvented as a gay black man in 2022.
The race-bending of a character is really nothing new, creators have been using it as a cheap way to make old characters seem new in front of a young audience. Sadly, the race bending of the character never plays out a lot in the identity of the character itself, and it is probably nothing more than a publicity stunt. It is cool to see more actors of color in front of the cameras, but the lack of substance ends up hurting these efforts more often than not.
That is the big issue of this Nancy Drew spin-off. The first episode of the show amounts to a lot of jumping between scenarios. And between conversations that really don’t amount to much when trying to place the characters at the beginning of a story that is supposed to grab you and make you interested to keep watching. Most of the dialogue feels pointless and when the series tries to develop its science fiction theme, it really goes into endless jargon. The science feels more like magic in this show.
This is a sad tale because having a black lead in a true hard science fiction show is not something you see every day. Unfortunately, Tom Swift is not going to be the show that fills that void. In general, the show doesn’t really sell the fact that Tom is a billionaire or that he belongs to a family that is just outrageously rich. This is the result of not having the necessary budget to recreate this part of the show. Whenever the show tries to tell you that Tom is one of the richest people in the world, you have to suspend your belief a lot.
Another aspect of the story that feels severely undercooked, is how the show treats Tom’s sexuality. Being gay in today and age is of course, still, sadly, a challenge that many people have to overcome. The rejection and the need to have your identity recognized is a strong one. But this is precisely the treatment that is given to being gay in almost 99% of the shows. To show that being gay nowadays is just a positive treat that should be celebrated is still a rare thing to see. Tom Shift defaults to the cliché treatment, as always.
In terms of the overall plot, the show tries to build this huge conspiracy that deals with the government and several other institutions in these five minutes into the future setting. Sadly, the conspiracy isn’t interesting enough because the stakes are not really understood well enough, and without knowing what is at stake, well, it is very difficult to care about this plot.
In terms of visuals, the show feels exactly like the rest of the shows on the network. The inability of The CW to give unique looks and feels to each of their shows is just massive. For a show that is about invention and being creative, the network is everything but. This might be one of the last projects of the network, and let’s hope that the crews that work in this type of show can find some other jobs where they can stretch their talents into something more creative.
Tom Swift is that weird spin-off that gets to be greenlit for some reason. With only one episode, it is really hard to see if the show will improve in the future. However, with The CW’s track record, it is almost a sure thing that we will be getting just more of the same thing we see in this episode. Richard is a charming actor, and the whole cast is actually quite good, but the surrounding show deserves to be so much better than this.