A network can scarcely promote a complicated show anymore without people jumping up and saying “is this the next Lost?” Let me save you some time: NOPE! There will never be another Lost. There will never be another Sopranos (some say Boardwalk Empire but they’re completely different aside from both being about gangsters).
That doesn’t mean that both of those shows need to hold an untouchable status or that they can’t be surpassed by other shows. I only mean to say that a show is its own entity and shouldn’t be compared to other shows (unless they’re blatantly similar, as is the case with many crime procedurals).
So of course when a twist-y sci-fi show with a big cast that’s executive produced by Lost co-creator (and television demi-god) J.J. Abrams starts getting advertised…the comparisons were bound to start rolling out. Thankfully, the plotting and style of the show is different enough that I think the comparisons will cease soon after it airs (the pilot is available on Hulu already, which is where I watched it).
This is one of only two or three new shows this Fall that remotely interest me (the other main one being the CW’s Arrow). What got me so excited? Any involvement from Abrams on a show is always a good reason to check it out. But he’s only the executive producer, who’s the creator? None other than the creator of Supernatural (an overlooked and excellent cult TV series) Eric Kripke. And the pilot is directed by Jon Favreau, the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2.
Those are quite a few reasons to watch.
I haven’t even told you about the show yet! That’s somewhat by design, as the Pilot episode is more of a whistle-wetter than anything else. It sets up the premise, gives you just enough info to interest you, and then leaves you with a classic 2000s TV “WTF?” moment at the end. In other words: it’s my favorite kind of pilot. It doesn’t do too much too early (like The Walking Dead, which will never live down its excellent first episode) but it also offers much more substance than something like The Event which tried too hard too early at setting up mysteries.
This particular show focuses on what the world would be like without electricity. Not just without centralized electricity. We’re talking about every car, laptop, and Gameboy shutting down all at the same time. This leads to many interesting questions already: why can’t they recreate our electrical systems to some degree? Did everyone with a pacemaker die? Are the devices fried for good or can they be revived?
Whatever the answers to these questions may be, 15 years have passed and Earth (or at least America) is inhabited by militias on horseback. It’s kind of like a post-apocalyptic Western. So: think Book of Eli with machetes. Wait…that also had machetes…so they’re actually fairly similar.
It’s not the most original of ideas but its delivery is thus far interesting. The cast seems to be just big enough to be interesting but not too big where your average network TV viewer will be confused. The visual style is distinctive in that it’s a mix of nature and industry. We see a lot of skyscrapers overtaken by ivy and things of that nature. Once again: not new. But distinctive for a TV show.
There were a few things that bothered me about the Pilot. On a sci-fi show, some of these things can become permissible or even explained. The part that bothered me the most was a fight scene near the end that involved the main character (or one of them) killing about 25 bad guys by himself (not an exaggeration).
He’s seriously a normal-sized guy. One second he’s tending a post-apocalyptic bar and the next he’s wielding dual machetes and cutting his way through hordes of henchmen. They have guns…they miss! He loses a machete…he succeeds! After 30 minutes or so of fairly realistic storytelling and atmosphere we get something out of a 90s action film.
Will we find out later that he has all kinds of skills because of things that he experienced before the blackout? Does he have abilities due to some sci-fi story arcs that have yet to be revealed within the scope of the show? I hope so. Because if not: he was just an ordinary guy that for some reason gained the ability to combat 25 people single-handedly just because he’s been roughing it without electricity.
There was also a bit too much violence in general. I’m no opponent to action by any means. Nor am I opposed to acts of violence being used to make a statement within a show. Both of those can be used very effectively. But it seemed like somebody was getting stabbed, shot, impaled, or otherwise maimed every 5 minutes. This lessens the impact of said maiming.
Plus, there were a few “heroic rescues” by various characters during the hour. We have very little idea who these people are who are rescuing or being rescued. So there wasn’t much impact there either. If the show ends up being good and continuing, I’m sure it’ll be neat to say “oh it’s interesting that so-and-so saved her because they hate each other now!” or another such revelation. Because after you know the characters, earlier moments become more interesting.
Mostly though, this show is full of potential. I’m not too familiar with most of the cast but one of the villains is played by all-around badass Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Once Upon a Time). If they knew to snag him, they must know what they’re doing casting-wise. In addition, one of the presumed-dead characters was played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V) which tells me she’ll probably be back.
So while the Pilot didn’t necessarily “wow” me, it was definitely solid. It wasn’t trying too hard to be an imitation but it also wasn’t trying to be weird for the sole purpose of sticking out. If you want to check it out now, it’s on Hulu.com already. If you want to catch it when it airs, it’ll be on Monday September 19th on NBC at 10. Second episodes are usually rough and third and fourth episodes are usually improvements. By episode 5 I’ll know for sure if it’s worth keeping around.
For now: Abrams, Kripke, and Favreau are all I need.
We dare you to find a television show or movie that Domenic has not seen and most of them he owns. For this reason he has become a walking encyclopedia of anything you would want to know on the topics of TV and movies. When he’s not watching flicks, he’s writing screenplays. Stay tuned for those.