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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
THE EVENT (NBC)
(written by Nick Wauters; directed by Jeffrey Reiner; TRT: 42:12)
The network's description: ""The Event" is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, "The Class"), an Everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee, Leila (Sarah Roemer, "Disturbia"), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Sean's quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including: newly elected U.S. President Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, "Dirty Sexy Money"); Sophia (Emmy Award nominee Laura Innes, "ER"), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Sean's shadowy father-in-law (Scott Patterson, "Gilmore Girls"). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind. Ian Anthony Dale ("Daybreak") and Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek ("Damages") also star in the ensemble drama."
What did they leave out? "The Event's" "event" doesn't actually happen in the pilot. Whatever said happening is will presumably remain the core mystery of the show.
The plot in a nutshell: Garbled news footage of various people fleeing in panic gives way to various flashbacks - everything from a few minutes to a few days to as far as 13 months ago - that will ultimately reveal what the commotion is all about. In the meantime we meet an array of folks who will prove to have ties to it: nice guy Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, unfortunately sticking with the facial hair he sported in "Parenthood"); his girlfriend Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer); her parents (Julia Campbell, Scott Patterson); newly inaugurated President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood); CIA director Blake Sterling (Zeljko Ivanek); Sophia (Laura Innes), a prisoner being held in a top-secret facility in Alaska; and Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale), some sort of government agent with ties to her.
Sparking their eventual crossing of paths: Sean's improbable decision to pull a gun on an airplane, claiming he needs to stop the pilot from doing something; Simon's own attempts to keep the plane from taking off, again for reasons unknown; and the President's decision to make some kind of announcement regarding Sophia, much to Sterling's chagrin. Said flashbacks then fill in the gaps on how they got to the aforementioned situations, details of which obviously I won't spoil here. Suffice it to say there are plenty more vague pronouns and shadowy allusions to come as the mystery has just begun.
What doesn't work: Much like last year's "FlashForward," the pilot's revelations aren't nearly as awe-inspiring or worthy of secrecy as I'm sure the trailers and other promotions would have you believe. If anything, "The Event" tiptoes around its various genre elements a little too carefully: everything is either spoken about or shown in a way that never addresses the "holy shit" obviousness of what's really going on. People are always "they," plot elements are always "something," labels which people in real life wouldn't use to describe what "they" and "something" actually is/are.
Far more frustrating though is how little we actually learn about the characters, even Sean, the proposed everyman who's supposed to be our way into the show. Literally in the entire pilot all we learn is his name is Sean Walker and he loves his girlfriend. We don't know what his job is, what music he likes, where he's from, anything that would differentiate him from random people on the street. That's not to say the audience needs some kind of info dump but if the idea is we're supposed to root for him, it would just be nice to have some context other than he's just "that guy."
But he's Holden Caulfield compared to the rest of the cast, all of whom hide behind the general vagueness of what's actually going on as the show's secrets-before-character tendencies make it extremely irritating at times. All in all, while I can appreciate that "The Event" is swinging for the fences here, it's hard to get behind a show that hinges on some ill-defined mystery being resolved rather than making us care about the characters whose lives will be changed because of it.
What does: "The Event" plays more like a 42-minute trailer for a much more interesting show than an actual pilot for a television series. From the opening hijacking to the closing "Guys, where are we?"-esque moment, there's the sense that something fun and exciting is in here somewhere. It's just unfortunate then that, whatever those elements are, get buried underneath...
The bottom line: ...the usual conspiracy/genre gobbledygook.