Apple TV’s newest drama Home Before Dark has a very ominous title despite being pitched at family audiences. I think….
Inspired by the reporting of 9 year old investigative journalist Hilde Lysiak who investigated a local murder in a Pennsylvania smalltown.
I surely admire her nose for a story and her entrepreneurial nous in starting a family newspaper, The Magic Hour Chronicle. Yep, I once did the very same thing, followed by starting the school newspaper! Back then they called it a hobby, these days it is ‘self-publishing.’
“If they cut me open I’ll bleed ink,” Hilde (Brooklynn Prince) tells us.
“Since I’m a kid people lie to me all the time.”
But being pint-sized she manages to squirrel into places where she can observe scenes normally closed to prying adults, such as behind police lines, albeit momentarily. She even knows the dialogue from repeat viewings of All the President’s Men.
When her family relocates from Brooklyn to Erie Harbor after her father loses his newspaper job, Hilde notices a town down on its luck and new stories to uncover. But then there are the nay-sayers, such as her sceptical big sister and cautious dad (Jim Sturgess).
“Life is not always about chasing the story. You’ve got to enjoy yourself,” he warns.
But Dad also has his own past with Erie Harbor and a chance meeting with a local woman leads Hilde to prying into his past relationships. When the woman is found dead in her house, Hilde swings into action, writing a story for her newspaper which ripples throughout the local community.
Instantly mocked by her school peers and causing problems for local police, she is soon on the outer. The series quickly moves to the classic case of kid-knows-more-than-adults if only someone would believe her. But Hilde manages to find an African-American female cop, frequently on the receiving end of local misogyny, who lends a sympathetic ear.
“I don’t like when they pat me on the head, either,” says the cop (Aziza Scott).
Sometimes earnest and overly dramatic, my biggest problem with this series is working out just who it is pitched at. Is this a family series with adult-like themes or an adult series with a kid as its hero? Even the title sounds like a date-rape telemovie. Writers Dana Fox and Dara Resnik also can’t avoid moments that are too adult, rather than child-like.
The series does forge a nice father-daughter relationship but Dad is also fairly limp in playing the adult in scenes that facilitate Hilde’s behaviour -at least in the opening chapter.
At one point things turn positively Norma Rae in a series that is just a little bit too woke for my liking. But her nose for news is admirable. Maybe she will grow up to be a blogger?
Home Before Dark begins Friday on Apple TV+.