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STUDIO: Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME: 437 Minutes
• Selected commentaries with actors and writer
• Behind-the-scenes featurette "Kyle XY Declassified"
• Extended cuts of pilot and finale
"It’s The X-Files meets Degrassi, but it’s not at all like Roswell."
Matt Dallas, April Matson, Marguerite MacIntyre, Kirsten Prout, Bruce Thomas, Chris Olivero.
One drizzly Seattle morning, a young man wakes up in a forest with no clue how he got there, no idea who he is, and no belly button. Like a newborn with excellent balance, he wanders into the city, naked, only to be picked up by the police. Because of his apparent amnesia and inability to speak, he is placed in the temporary foster care of a kindly therapist, who names him Kyle. Back home, she discovers that Kyle has an extraordinary aptitude for learning — language, math, social mores, you name it. As Kyle tries to fit in with the people around him, flashes of his past begin to appear in his nightmares… and some of them come a-calling in reality.
Color me surprised. The ABC Family channel hasn’t yet made a name for itself in original content. They play the saccharine fare, the CW-lite, so I was expecting something of a similar caliber from Kyle XY. Instead, upon popping in the pilot, I was greeted with two names that immediately piqued my interest: Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, creators executive producers of this show and the folks who brought us glorious carnage in Final Destination 2.
Rather than giving us thrills and kills with this outing, the duo has guided a science-fiction show of uncommon quality onto the airwaves. It’s not a particularly original concept; you’ll figure out the meat of the mystery within a few minutes of the pilot’s opening, though you may question your results a few times over the course of the season. Where the show excels is in its sensibilities, which borrow from two seemingly disconnected genres.
First, there’s the teen soap opera. Kyle’s foster family includes an angsty teenage daughter and an angsty teenage boy, with all their associated friendships and fallouts. Kyle himself appears to be of the angsty age, and runs into a few relationship troubles here and there. Being a handsome, mysterious guy does tend to score the interest of ladies. Not that he knows exactly what to do with that interest; he makes an effort toward investing in it, but he’s not the smartest emotional economist.
Quick, Captain Late-Fees! To the stacks!
Since the show’s on ABC Family, you can assume that these periods of young drama build toward generally positive and life-affirming morals. Rather than feeling like a less insipid 7th Heaven, though, the stories resolve in the direction of logical compassion, in which it is shown to be reasonable to treat people with kindness and fairness. This may sound like a bit too much sugar for light geek fare, but it struck me that the tone of each episode, and of the season’s arc as a whole, has a lot in common with science fiction from the fifties and sixties. Kyle’s stories, and his life as a tabula rasa, communicate an intense humanism, even when straying into the territory of religion.
As impressed as I am with the tone of the show, I’m even moreso with the abilities of its lead. Matt Dallas stands to have a nice, long career if he keeps this quality of work up. Sure, he may look like a young David Boreanaz, but he has what it takes to switch between full-on sympathy, righteousness, and anger believably. He’s a little shaky early on, before Kyle masters his powers of speech, but once the character starts to experience variation, Dallas pushes pure charisma.
That talent is less prominant during the periods in which the show turns from walking Kyle through his new life to exploring the mystery behind his past. It’s a nice tell that said mystery heavily involves Alex Krycek (his actor, Nicholas lea, anyway) as there is a palpable X-Files air to the proceedings. Unfortunately, those times the plot centers on the mythos don’t hold a candle to the interest generated from Kyle’s simple family interactions. As the season progresses, the mystery becomes less important than the people involved in it, for which I’m grateful, but as a subplot/second focus of the story, it falls a little limp.
Stranger in a way-too-familiar land.
I’m hooked, though. I want to see how this plays out. ABC Family is airing new episodes, now; the second season premier was yesterday, the 11th, and new shows go out on Mondays. If you don’t mind a little bleeding heart mixed with your science fiction, I can wholeheartedly recommend Kyle XY to you.
The set is pretty skimpy. There’s alternate cuts of buth the premiere and the season finale, neither of which go beyond the expected. You get a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette called "Kyle XY Declassified" and audio commentaries on select episodes from actors Matt Dallas and April Matson, and writer Julie Plec.