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Michael Sheen Playing a Serial Killer on TV Is Relevant to My Interests

Fandom boyfriend Michael Sheen is back on screens this fall with Prodigal Son, a property that seems as far from his angelic Good Omens turn as thematically possible. The Fox crime drama, which debuts September 23rd, will see Sheen play an infamous serial killer whose son (The Walking Dead’s Tom Payne) is trying to make good on the family business by solving crimes.

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From Prodigal Son‘s Wikipedia summary:

Malcolm Bright is a gifted criminal psychologist, using his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother, a serial killer father still looking to bond with his prodigal son and his own constantly evolving neuroses.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Sheen’s Dr. Martin Whitly “was once a devoted family man and successful cardiothoracic surgeon with high-profile patients. He also is a predatory sociopath who is in prison for murdering more than 20 people.” Sheen is a gifted actor who has embodied a broad range of roles, but this is one of the first times I’ve seen him as a bad guy grounded in everyday reality (we’re not in Twilight or Tron-land here).

Based on the trippy dream that Malcolm has in the clip above, however, it also appears that the show will be diving directly into the character’s id, so maybe there’ll be some fantastical sequences as well—it would seem Malcolm is deathly afraid of sleepwalking and what he might do in that state, as he’s chained himself to the bed.

Executive producers Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver have called Prodigal Son a hybrid of “Sherlock and Freud” and also cited House‘s Dr. Gregory House as an inspiration. “[Dr. Gregory] House is someone we looked to as a main character who has some trauma you can keep going back to but still care about,” Sklaver said, per Deadline.

Considering I love all things Sherlockian—which includes House—and I would happily watch Michael Sheen read the phonebook, I’ll be checking out Prodigal Son. (If this type of murderous content isn’t your cup of tea but you would also watch Michael Sheen read the phonebook, you can listen to Sheen narrating the new Phillip Pullman book The Secret Commonwealth, returning after his narration of Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage.)

Fox seems confident in Prodigal Son‘s chances. Just today, Sheen retweeted the network’s announcement that the first episode is available as a preview through the weekend (not, alas, viewable in all regions):

Pop culture’s current obsession with all things serial killers makes Prodigal Son apt for our times, and it’ll be interesting to see a show delve into the fact that there can be shades of gray to even the worst sort of person. Sheen’s Whitly may be a convicted murderer many times over, but he also seems to care about his family, and the set-up here may be that he’ll help his son catch even worse criminals with his “insider” knowledge. It’s an intriguing place to begin a story, and I’ll be back with a review of the first episode next week.

(image: Fox)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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