The Event debuts tonight on NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern.
The Event is starting off with an advantage that no other post-Lost serialized genre show has had: it’s actually post-Lost. Sure, the comparisons between the two shows will be made (particularly when both happen to involve fateful air travel,) but those who feel there’s only room enough in their lives for one such a show have all the more reason to give it a three-episode trial, since not only Lost, but also 24, Heroes and FlashForward were all snuffed out for one reason or another during the 2009-2010 season. Since Lost there’s been all sorts of dialogue about whether or not a show like that could ever be successful again, and if there’s a shot at it, The Event just might have it, if only because it’s now it’s the only game in town for this sort of thing.
While the Lost comparisons are inevitable, The Event actually bears more resemblance to two of the other shows I mentioned, 24 and FlashForward. Like 24, it’s built for speed, with a structure that emphasizes intensity and leaves little room for moments of reflection, lest you have time to analyze anything that might resemble a logical implausibility. (It’s no coincidence that The Event’s show runner, Evan Katz, worked for 24 from season two all the way to the final countdown. ) But like FlashForward, The Event, at least initially, treats its characters not as people but as chess pieces. Of course, as the show continues there will be more time for shading, but if I was to make a decision about whether or not to continue with the show based on the pilot, and character development was of importance to me, I wouldn’t be convinced based on the episode that it could deliver that. But if I was just looking for an intriguing enough serial thriller that would keep me engaged so long as I didn’t think about it too much, I’d swear I’d found love.
The Event centers on some kinda global conspiracy of some sort with shadowy, powerful people, and human lives at stake, and super-classified information, you don’t wanna know how high up this thing goes, so on and so forth. Naturally there’s not much that can be told about what the show is actually about at this early juncture, but here’s what we know so far, presented in something resembling chronological order. Jason Ritter plays Sean Walker, a guy who seems nice enough, and wants to propose to his girlfriend Leila (Sarah Roemer.) Sean and Leila go on a cruise, because what better way to drop on one knee than at a bluff overlooking the ocean, but before he can offer his undying love and devotion, Leila disappears. How does a woman go missing from a cruise ship? Why does Sean’s key no longer work in his room door, and why does the ship suddenly have no record of either of them having boarded?
Meanwhile (sort of), President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood) is all smiles at his son’s birthday party, even as he prepares to make an announcement to the American people that his advisors are begging him not to go through with. (Among said council is Zeljko Ivanek, who is just made for this sort of thing.) He’s going to announce plans to release 79 prisoners from a beyond super-max detainment facility hidden in the mountains of Alaska. With him to pose for photos opps at the big announcement, is Sophia (Laura Innes), the “leader” of the detainees and former prisoner herself. Why someone as adorable and grandmotherly would need to be held in such a facility, and in shackles no less, remains to be seen. But just as they’re preparing to make the announcement, Secret Service starts freaking out and starting to evacuate everybody, what with a plane headed straight for the presidential retreat and all. Sean is now on that plane, as is Leila’s father, who turns out to be the pilot and is plotting a suicide mission in the ostensible hope of saving his kidnapped daughter.
It’s a lot of balls to keep in the air, and I admired the way the pilot hammered the pieces into place, despite its fairly exhausting fractured-chronology structure. There was a point at which I decided that if I wasn’t watching the show in order to review it, I might have just said “You know what? No.” and stopped watching just because of the sheer volume of time jumps. Ultimately I was satisfied with the way it came together, but only for the second and a half that I didn’t think about what I’d seen. I fear that the time-jumping structure might just be a way to gloss over glaring questions without ever having to answer them . Whereas on Katz’s former show, you’d have to actually show Jack Bauer driving from one end of Los Angeles to another in seven minutes, with The Event, not even that is required. Throw in a couple different characters at different points in history, then just skip ahead to where you want to be. Sean is basically the Old Spice Guy: “Look down. Back up. Where am I? I’m on a boat, looking for my girlfriend who has disappeared and running away from the paunchy security guy. Look at your man. Now back at me. Now I’m on a plane, with a gun that I somehow managed to sneak past security.” Given the show’s momentum-at-all-costs pacing, I doubt we’ll ever see those bits filled in.
Then again, I could be misjudging the show. Katz has said (though this is a tale as old as time) that the show will answer questions as it raises them, and not drag things out too long or turn the show into an expensively produced shell game. And it won’t be until next week that I can actually evaluate if there’s any truth to that. This is how The Event differs from Lost, and why the comparison is really unwarranted. Lost was, above all, a show about characters, not mysteries. The Event is a show about mysteries, not characters. I could tell you after watching a pilot whether or not a character-based show is succeeding, but with a show like this, I’m not even sure I’ll know which end is up on this thing until around episode three. But if the mark of a show like this is posing enough questions to get you to return for the next episode, even if you’re doing so grudgingly, then I’d say the plane-vanishes-in-a-cloud-of-fairy-plasma scene is enough to qualify The Event a success so far.
- I know I’ve yet to mention Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale), but honestly I’m not even sure what to say about him yet. He’s got a really fast truck, but it can’t fly.
- I’m so glad they made the president Cuban. It’s so unrealistic when television shows and movies have white presidents.
- The security guard was played by Joseph C. Phillips, who played Denise’s husband on The Cosby Show, for whatever that’s worth.
- I’m intrigued by the great pains they took to establish that the people held at the Mt. Inostranka facility are “not Americans,” but that Martinez wants to release them in the interest of “human rights.” So they may be aliens, but apparently not the space kind.
- “I haven’t told you everything.” Boy, I’d say, lady. You’d better start talking, and not any of that Lost speak where you repeat my question back to me instead of answering it.