Like an old crush who maddeningly just didn’t find you as fascinating as you found them, there’s always going to be that one TV show you just can’t help comparing all newcomers against.

However, when sitting down to write an objective review of a new TV show, it’s generally not a good idea to openly wonder if this new offering will make you feel that same sense of excitement and adventure as the old one did. Such musing would be biased. And unobjective. So what if the new series was created by the same showrunner? And what if it does fall into the same genre? And offers the same weekly procedural storylines, while at the same time offering generous chunks from a larger serialized arc? Those are just similarities. Right? Look, just because you loved Fringe, which ran on the Fox network from September 9, 2008, to January 18, 2013, and starred Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ll have room in your outer-worldly, science-fictioning, ghastly-goings-on-solving loving heart? Does it?


Happily, Debris, premiering tonight on NBC, is both a spiritual successor to creator and showrunner J.H. Wyman’s beloved cult TV series, while at the same time offering fans of scifi and the paranormal and the weird something exciting and truly original to get stuck into.

The premise is simple. A joint but uneasy agreement between the US and UK governments sees two field agents, American CIA operative Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and British MI6 agent Finola Jones (Riann Steele) chasing down fragments of a downed alien spacecraft whose powerful remnants could elevate or exterminate humanity depending on whose hands they end up in. While the pair work together to find and neutralise the scattered debris, their respective governments, scrambling to get ahead of each other, demand they keep secrets and intel to themselves that will surely damage their burgeoning bond if allowed to continue. Meanwhile, criminal elements work together to locate and sell the most mysterious and powerful artefacts to the highest underworld bidders.

Debris– “Pilot” — Pictured: (l-r) Riann Steele as Finola Jones, Jonathan Tucker as Bryan Benventi — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

But while the premise may be straightforward, nothing else is. There is a sense of energy and goosebump-inducing wonder to Debris that I had hoped to see, and didn’t, in other NBC sci-fi shows like Manifest. Debris may have a greater mystery to play out, but its format means fans get to solve a mystery weekly. Who the aliens are plays a backseat to the danger and possibility of each new case, and episodes are presented with a momentum and urgency that makes you believe the show has so much it wants to show you.

Both Tucker and Steele are beautifully cast too, with Tucker as Bryan, a wise-cracking and rough around the edges ex-soldier with a past who likes to follow his gut, and Steele as his counterfoil, a steely and analytical MI6 agent who nevertheless sees humanity’s potential. Thankfully, the show resists the urge to stereotype its leads any further, allowing both characters to be truly grounded and emotional when the storyline calls for a little warmth or humanity.

Overall, there’s a lot to like here, and a feeling of true potential. Debris is an unexpected gift in the middle of a flat TV season. In fact, I can’t remember being this excited about a sci-fi show since 2008.

Debris airs Mondays on NBC (10-11 p.m. ET) with the series premiere on March 1. 

TV Pulse Grade: B

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