Call Me Theo
Young explorer/adventure show 'Theodosia' debuts on HBO Max.
Now Streaming: Today marks Turning Red release day for all Disney Plus subscribers, which means that Pixar goodness deserves space on your weekend viewing schedule, as I hope that my review earlier this week made clear.
Subscribers to HBO Max have another option for family-friendly viewing, a new entry in the 'young detective' sub-genre that revolves around a plucky 14-year-old young woman. (She's just one year older than Mei Lee, the puberty-beset protagonist of Turning Red.)
First published in 2007, R.L. LaFevers' Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos introduced its titular heroine, Theodosia, aged 11, who is dedicated to nullifying curses in her father's museum. The book's success led to a series, all intended for readers aged 9-12.
Announced in 2021, the 26-episode "kids adventure" television series is targeted at family audiences, and hails from European producers. One executive touted it as "Harry Potter or Indiana Jones with a girl lead, which you don’t get very often in teen live action nor period drama." And, surprise! He's right, and the first four episodes of the 13 that debuted on the streaming service yesterday live up to that description.
Eloise Little stars as Theodosia, aged 14. The series begins in Egypt, where her parents, Alistair (Rik Young) and Henrietta (Elisa Doughty), have brought their children along on a trip to find archeological artifacts for their museum in London. Their trip is cut short when their permits are pulled.
Back in London, a thief attempts to make off with a piece of luggage, but all he is really interested in is one artifact in particular, a little statue that glows green when touched. As the family settles once more into their daily routine, Theo becomes fascinated with the artifact and begins to unlock its mysteries.
Her younger brother, Henry (Frankie Minchella), playfully bickers with her, though his chief fascination is actually food. (He's a growing boy, after all.) Theo keeps encountering Will (Nana Agyeman-Bediako), a street magician who works out of a penny arcade, and their mutual attraction becomes apparent as they spend more time together. (In the books, the character is a pickpocket urchin.)
Meanwhile, Henry is immediately smitten with Safiya (Yasmina El-Abd), an Egyptian princess who is taken in for schooling by Alistair, who is told that doing so will help smooth the path to permits to explore in Egypt. This brings Theo, Henry, and Safiya together; along with Will, the foursome make up a good team of young explorers.
As I mentioned, I've only been able to watch the first four episodes, but I have enjoyed them and plan to continue watching in due course. Director Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs. Zombies) brings a stylish vim and vigor to the show, which really finds its rhythm in the fourth episode, a welcome mix of light-hearted banter among the leading characters to go along with the adventurous tone of their actions.
It all makes for an intelligent, diverting series that is enjoyable to watch, with antagonists who are menacing without being truly nasty and a decent sense of momentum. Theodosia has earned a place on my watchlist. [HBO Max]