Sleepy Hollow: Retro Review

I am an avid reader and have been since an early age. My parents are to be thanked for that, starting my love of reading at age three. I had many favorites through the years. Including one spooky tale entitled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

For as long as I can remember I read every science fiction, mystery, fantasy or spooky story I could lay my hands on.

But the one that really stood out was Irving’s 1820 short story classic. Of course, having one’s father nickname you Ichabod because you are already almost six feet tall and only weigh about 70 pounds before you turn 10, tends to make you curious about your namesake.

The Animated Sleepy Hollow stayed true to Irving's original material.

The animated Disney version of Ichabod Crane

You have to admit that it was better than “Jolly Green Giant” which my second-grade classmates delighted in calling me. My affinity for green shirts in addition to being at least one foot taller than they were being to blame, but I digress.

I loved the story, read it over and over in fact. Yes, I watched numerous times the animated adaptation of the gangly schoolmaster from Connecticut who arrives in Sleepy Hollow. No spoilers here, you’ll have to read it yourself.

Sleepy Hollow On The Big Screen

This brings us to 1999 and Tim Burton’s adaptation of the story that starred Johnny Depp. I actually liked the movie, despite the liberties Burton takes whenever he adapts original material. Although in this version Crane is a policeman called in from New York City to solve a murder plot in Sleepy Hollow.

As I said, Burton took some liberties with the story but the overall premise remained intact. More important, it was worth watching. But that is not the Sleepy Hollow I want to focus on here.

Sleepy Hollow: The TV Series

In 2013, the FOX network announced it would add the series, Sleepy Hollow, to its fall lineup. While they too tweaked the legendary story as Burton had in his film the premise sounded solid.

Ichabod Crane kept his head for four seasons of Sleepy Hollow.

Fox’s Sleepy Hollow ran for four seasons.

For this adaptation, Ichabod Crane was a teacher, an English professor. But instead of the story being set in post-Revolutionary War New England, Crane was a participant in the war.

Gone was the easily frightened, prone to flight not fight, man. Crane was a fighter who slew the Headless Horseman at the cost of his own life.

But Crane’s story was not to end that day. He awakens in 21st Century Sleepy Hollow, alive and well, only to encounter the still headless adversary he’d slain nearly 250 years before.

He also encounters Abbie Mills. Abbie is a member of the sheriff’s department run by Sheriff August Corbin. Corbin is portrayed by Clancy Brown of Highlander fame.

(And am I the only grandparent who watches Spongebob Squarepants with their grandchild and keeps waiting for Mr. Krabs to pop into the kitchen with a razor-sharp spatula in hand and say “Alright Spongebob, me boy, there can be only one”?)

What followed the pilot, over the next three seasons, was a well-woven conspiracy of supernatural forces. These forces are countered by two Biblical Witnesses (Crane and Mills) standing between them and utter ruin for humanity.

Tom Milson (Crane) and Nicole Beharie (Mills) developed a chemistry that was one of the best things about this show. The show even managed to work in some of the other characters from Irving’s original story in unique ways.

Beginning Of The End

The departure of Beharie after the end of season three was a death blow to the show, in my opinion. The fourth season moved to D.C. and incorporated a secret organization that George Washington set up. It went downhill from there.

It was just too much of a change in addition to the loss of one of the two main characters. So there was little surprise when a fifth season was not approved.

Fortunately, all four seasons are available on DVD. So if you want to binge on 72 hours of commercial-free urban fantasy you can’t ask for anything better.

About the author

Richard Paolinelli

  • Susan says:

    I attended a free screening of the first episode of Fox’s Sleepy Hollow in a packed theater before it debuted on TV. Most of those in attendance were excited for an opportunity to win free t-shirts or other prizes. I was there to see for myself how badly they had mangled a classic story that I had enjoyed in many incarnations, especially Tim Burton’s feature starring Johnny Depp. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the show. The chemistry between the two leads and the humor of watching Ichabod Crane navigate modern-day society hooked me. I wondered from the beginning how they might be unable to sustain multiple seasons, and it lasted longer than I thought it might. I think I stuck with it for the first two seasons, then it started feeling too contrived. Maybe Ichabod just doesn’t belong in the present day—or he needs better writers to keep him going.

    • Richard Paolinelli says:

      The third season could have taken a different direction. I would have loved to have taken a crack at it as a writer but alas, we’ll never know what could have been.


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