Based on the Lev Grossman fantasy novels, "The Magicians" is sort of a Harry Potter for adults as depressed loner Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph, "Madam Secretary") gets recruited to join Brakebills University, a secret upstate New York school for those with an aptitutde for magic.
But there's little that's magical about the cold, poorly paced "Magicians" pilot. It takes 16 minutes until Quentin arrives at Brakebills and feels longer. The pilot is rife with drab colors and while the story has potential, it made me want to go find the book rather than watch more of the TV series.
Quentin travels to Brakebills with Julia (Stella Maeve, "Chicago P.D."), who dates one of his friends. She doesn't pass the entrance exam and gets sent back to NYC but then she's desperate for another chance to matriculate at Brakebills and meets a possibly malevolent magician in a bar.
Quentin has long been interested in magic and in a book about a magical land that feels very "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" with its trio of siblings who enter the land through a magic grandfather clock as opposed to a wardrobe.
Once at Brakebills, Quentin meets a dandy named Eliot (Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama grad Hale Appleman) and a gruff roommate, Penny (Arjun Gupta, "Nurse Jackie"), the second character on a Syfy show this week to engage in sex while floating. And he's particularly intrigued by bookish Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), a particularly skilled but introverted magician.
There's also some sort of Voldemort-like baddie who's referenced early in the episode in hushed tones and then briefly glimpsed toward the end of the episode.
"The Magicians" evinces some decent elements but they fail to combine in a cohesive way
Weekly episodes of "The Magicians" will roll out beginning at 9 p.m. Jan. 25 with a rebroadcast of the pilot followed at 10 p.m. by a second episode.