Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Event 1.1 / 1.2 - 'I Haven't Told You Everything' / 'To Keep Us Safe'

“Their patience is running out” - Sophia

What the fuck?

That would be a pretty concise way of summing up the first two hours of one of the year’s most hotly anticipated (and hyped) shows.

So much happened in those first two hours it was hard to even begin to wrap your head around what was taking place on screen; The Event is like a kid with ADD – it can’t slow down for a second, constantly jumping around and generally making your head hurt.

I can see why a lot of critics have been quite scathing about the show thus far; it is literally like they took the defining elements of recent ‘water-cooler’ shows like 24, Lost, The X-Files and even the dismal failure that was FlashForward, threw them in a centrifuge and just watched what fused together.

Or to put it in layman’s terms: they threw enough shit at the wall and eventually something stuck, leaving us with The Event.

This is hokum at its most high concept, but make no mistake it sure as hell is gripping hokum. I can’t say I wasn’t giving the screen my full attention for less than a second during this opening double bill, but whether that intrigue will sustain itself for a season or the plural of that word, remains to be seen as that same sense of intrigue filled me whilst watching the FlashForward premiere a little over a year ago, more on that later though.

I’m hugely disappointed that the show involves aliens if I’m honest – as soon as they went to the Alaskan facility I called Sophia and her ‘people’ as aliens and it was a let down I have to admit.

It just feels a bit lazy to have a conspiracy involving aliens – The X Files pretty much wrote the book on that brand of storytelling and The Event can never hope to embed itself in the sub-conscious of popular culture like The X Files did. The show features elements of so many pop culture titans from recent memory that it needed the conspiracy to revolve around something that made The Event stand-out, something new, daring and original that had not been done before.

By going down the alien route, they have ensured that they will forever be bracketed with shows that can only make The Event look inferior by comparison.

Throw in the Lost-esque flashbacks and the 24 stylisation of using place locations and times as inserts as well as introducing characters with a caption in the pilot and The Event struggles to muster even a single original idea… And of course who can forget the Prison Break alike government conspiracy as well.

It would be nigh on impossible for me to recap here everything that occurred during those first two hours in terms of plot, half of it wouldn’t make an ounce of sense to someone who hadn’t seen the show anyway. Hell, I watched the damn thing and I don’t really have a clue what’s going on.

So instead I’m going to stick to more of an overview of the show, and one thing The Event has going in its favour is that the cast is suitably strong.

Zeljko Ivanek effortlessly moves to yet another show to play essentially the same character, but hot damn, if he isn’t good at it.

Blair Underwood is also bringing some much needed gravitas to the role of President Palmer, sorry Martinez and I always found Laura Innes very cold on ER so playing an alien is an almost tailor-made role for her.

I really want to like Jason Ritter but I just found him a little unbelievable as the hero of the piece. I get that he’s supposed to be this everyman thrown into the middle of this conspiracy, and he did play the victim role very well, but when it came to waving a gun around and being the action hero it felt more like a school play with him waving a plastic gun around at the ‘bad guys’.

The ellipses narrative device really started to annoy me by the end of the two hours; I guess it’s going to be a show you need to watch in small doses rather than in one self-indulgent sitting, as it was hard enough to follow what was going on as it was without the constant time shifting.

I chose the opening quote because it seemed to quite succinctly sum up my feelings about this show after only two episodes. I’ll stick with The Event, because that’s what I do – I very rarely ditch shows mid-way through a run – but when you are losing patience with a show after only two episodes that’s a pretty ominous sign.

I do feel for everyone involved in the show, because until that next TV phenomenon comes along everything will be hyped as “the new Lost” but as we discovered with FlashForward it’s damn near impossible to bottle lightening.

Lost probably should have failed, but it didn’t and that was a combination of many things, greedy networks are so desperate for their next ratings juggernaut though that they are trying to synthesise that success again rather than just allowing something to organically shine through.

The Event is certainly no Lost, after two episodes of Lost we knew so much about the characters, sure we knew jack shit about what was going on in terms of the over-arcing mystery but we’d already formed a bond and identified with the players.

The Event spent so much time jumping around in time and setting up this multi-faceted conspiracy that we barely learnt a thing about the characters. A brief glimpse of Sean teaching Leila how to swim during their first ever meeting wasn’t enough to make us care about his quest to find her.

It’s early days yet though and The Event has the benefit of being able to learn and thus, hopefully avoid FlashForward’s myriad mistakes. FlashForward was proof that some people thought Lost’s success was solely down to the mystery surrounding what was going on – but FlashForward’s failure showed everyone what a lot of us already knew, you can’t just have a mystery at the heart of a show to make it successful. If you don’t relate to, and empathise with, the characters then you’re ultimately fighting a brutal losing battle.

Early days it may be but unfortunately it has to be said that on this evidence The Event is looking more FlashForward than Lost.

Bullet Points:

- It’s going to be very hard for me to root for Ian Anthony Dale’s character as I still haven’t forgiven the actor for playing the guy who killed my beloved Milo Pressman on 24.

- I kept thinking I knew Sarah Roemer, who plays Leila, from somewhere, but after a quick scan of IMDB I haven’t really seen anything with her in so I think my Déjà vu was triggered more by how similar she looks to Dollhouse’s Dichen Lachman.

- One thing that struck me as odd was that if there was no record of Sean ever being on the boat and his room had been taken over by someone else, meaning that Greg’s corpse would have had to be disposed of by the conspiracy players, how could he then be wanted for Greg’s murder? Surely someone somewhere would’ve thought the circumstances surrounding this were a little odd.

I know in the grand scheme of things this is a pretty minor detail but I loathe lazy storytelling. Hopefully the flashback device the show is utilising will eventually get us back a board that cruise ship and we can discover how Sean ended up escaping and how exactly he was framed for Greg’s rather graphic stabbing.

- I don’t totally understand Channel 4’s decision to air the show on Friday nights. It would surely have attracted more viewers on a proper ‘weeknight’ no? Fridays and Saturdays are notoriously choppy waters for any TV show as people are out and about more. As with the show itself though, I guess time will tell whether this decision by C4 was a good one.

The Event continues Friday @ 9pm on Channel 4.


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