Kyle XY doesn’t really have anything to do with comics — though the “stranger in a strange land” theme is popular in comic books — but it’s shaping up to be a slow news day, so perhaps you’ll indulge me.
I first mentioned the new ABC Family drama last month in a rundown of comics-themed summer TV series, where I fretted over lack of promotional support for the show. It looks as if I should abandon any dreams of becoming an industry analyst, because ABC obviously knew what it was doing: Kyle XY is shaping up to be a hit for the cable channel and the parent network, which rebroadcasts episodes on Fridays (where it won its time slot among young viewers). The June 26 premiere was the best-ever for ABC Family, drawing more than 2.6 million viewers.
It’s also spearheading the cable channel’s more aggressive effort to attract the 18- to 28-year-old demographic. Beginning Aug. 6, the network will add the offbeat, supernaturally themed Three Moons Over Milford to its lineup of original series, followed in 2007 by a family/crime drama called Lincoln Heights.
I’m hooked on Kyle XY, which is family-friendly without stumbling into saccharine 7th Heaven territory. There are clear moral themes — this week’s episode was about lies — but the show manages to avoid Camden-style preachiness, largely because the title character (played by Matt Dallas) provides a blank slate that permits the exploration of concepts like fear, family, pain and truth.
At the show’s center is a byzantine mystery straight out of The X-Files: A teen boy is found wandering naked, with no memory of who he is and little understanding of the world around him. Kyle is like a newborn in a 15-year-old’s body — except that body doesn’t have a belly button.
After a brief but disastrous stay at a juvenile hall, Kyle is taken in by kindly social worker Nicole Trager (Marguerite MacIntyre of The Days) and her family (including Bruce Thomas, who played Batman in the short-lived Birds of Prey). There, he learns to talk in a day, and displays unusual abilities and behavior — he’s a mathematical genius who sleeps in the bathtub and jumps, unharmed, from the roof of the house — that leads the Trager son to believe he’s an alien.
While Kyle adapts to the world, and the Tragers adapt to him, the mystery unfolds. Kyle is haunted by images of the forest in which he awoke, and draws impossibly detailed pictures of the scene. Meanwhile, the local police think he may know something about the remains of a body discovered nearby. And then there’s the mysterious man (Nicholas Lea, who played Krycek in The X-Files), who spies on Kyle, and who may have killed the man in the woods.
The show’s minisite, sponsored by Sour Patch Kids, which, coincidentally, are a big part of Kyle’s diet, and commercials encourage viewers to solve the mystery of “Who is Kyle XY?” There’s even a clue-tracker page, which seems far more impenetrable than the show itself.
But when the commercial at the end of each episode asks whether I found all the clues, I realize I wasn’t really looking for them. Instead, I’m more caught up in the character interaction than I am in the actual “mystery.”
New episodes of Kyle XY air Mondays at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC Family.