I Speak TV: Hawaii 5-0, The Event, Undercovers

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

I enjoy the fall pilot season as much as anyone, but I wish these shows would realize: we’ve got other shit we’re already watching. Meaning, the fight for my attention span and DVR space is already pretty high (particularly on the down and dirty streetfight nights of Monday and Thursday).

They can’t just bring their A-games. They need to bring their exclamation point, dollar sign, and asterix games (we’re going alphabetically, but numbers and symbols first, right? This is why “24” always did so well.).

Fortunately, I can save myself a lot of time this year, since the lines are broken into TV You’ve Already Seen (three lawyer shows and at least three cop shows this year), TV You Know Is Gonna Be Good (was anyone thinking Boardwalk Empire would be a stinker? Then you are a cynic!), and TV That’s Juuuust Different Enough to Warrant a Look (the surprisingly pleasant Nikita and Terriers, and this week’s The Event and Undercovers).

So: Three quick looks, starting with…

Hawaii 5-0:

I wanted to like this, mostly because I like Daniel Dae Kim and wanted him to have a role where he can just smile pleasantly and slap people on the back for a change. And hey, Hawaii. Watched a show that filmed there for six years, and it always looked really nice. Even the cork that kept the soul of the world in (or whatever was going on there). 

So, on the basis of that judgment alone, H50 is a success. But unfortunately, it’s also got this line:

Frightened thug (after getting threatened and punched by cops): What kind of cops are you?!
STEVE MCGARRETT: The new kind.

Which is actually to say “The kind found on The Shield many years ago but now it’s on network TV so there’s none of that pesky moral ambiguity.” That the show seems to think this is an exciting new idea is a bit saddening.

(It’s also a surprisingly violent show. I suppose I always think of CBS crime shows as having after-the-fact violence – the CSI corpses and such – but there is a lot of bloody gunplay in this pilot that I was surprised to find a little jarring, considering how lightweight it feels otherwise.)

Add to that Alex O’Loughlin, an actor so humorless and stiff that it’s almost hilarious to see him engage in dialogue with fellow hoo-man Scott Caan (doing his usual Scott Caany thing).

But, uh, no. You don’t need to watch this. I’m sure Daniel Dae Kim will be just fine without us rooting him on.

The Event

You see how annoyingly vague that title is? Now stretch it out to 45 minutes, and chop up the timeline so pointlessly that the title might as well be “Het Netev.” That’s the feeling of watching this show.

I’d love to tell you what the thing’s about, so here goes: Jason Ritter’s girlfriend goes missing and everyone pretends she never existed; the president is holding vague meetings to get a bunch of mysterious prisoners released from their Alaskan supermax prisons. It’s implied that they’re aliens (but not like “V”) or superbeings (but not like “Heroes”) or clones (but not like, oh, let’s say “Parts: The Clonus Horror”) or from a parallel earth (but not like “Fringe”) or from the future (but not like “The 4400”) or shit, I dunno, Draculas. They’re something all right, that’s for sure.

Jason Ritter’s girlfriend’s dad is a pilot, and to keep his missing daughter safe, he has to pilot a commercial plane into the president’s Miami fun-compound (or Funpound). Jason Ritter, using skills that any capital-E Everyman can apparently muster, managed to smuggle a gun aboard the plane to stop, so that he could wave it around for 30 seconds and freak everyone out before an air marshal swats him down.

He does not talk the dad down, but it’s okay, because the airplane teleports away at the last minute. Which is NOT the Event, billboards have previously informed us. The Event is something different. Something even more mysterious. An Incident, if you will. Or…a HAPPENING.

What it isn’t is at all clarified for an audience who doesn’t really have time anymore to be jerked around, especially after the general “feeling jerked around by Lost” wound is so fresh.

I feel like this show may have been some kind of practical joke, or a meta-commentary on networks trying to create the next “Lost” without really understanding what made that show click with viewers. And I’m not leaving it up for debate: what suckered people into watching a sci-fi/fantasy show was there was a lot of strong character building early on – something wholly absent from this pilot.

These aren’t characters, they’re plot-moving machines. Not people to get invested in. And the overarching mystery is so mysterious as to not even be there – so how exactly is an audience supposed to get interested in it?

And yet, because I currently have nothing occupying the 9PM slot, I’ll watch the next episode. Because at the very least, I’ll say the show was well-filmed, and I’d like to see what happens after the pilot, when The Event has to become The Show People Are Supposed to Watch Each Week.

I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Undercovers

Congratulations to J.J. Abrams for following up on a throwaway line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – when Xander referred to Buffy’s paramilitary ex, Reilly, and his new wife as “Nick and Nora Fury.”

One line, and it’s been rattling in my head for years, making me wonder, “Why hasn’t anyone done a show with a spy-fi married couple?” Apparently Abrams was too, and so here we are.

This is light TV – in the Burn Notice/Leverage arena (I’m picking the two light shows I actually like) – and so it feels a little weird on NBC (home of detectives Taking. It. Personally!), but it’s charming and pleasant. Abrams knows how to build a pilot – by presenting likable characters and then throwing them into outlandish situations – and this is no exception. Having recently rewatched the Alias pilot (since I keep judging so many lookalike shows by that great single episode) I can confirm: this isn’t as good as that. But it’s good.

Bonus points for putting Gerald McCraney in the “gruff superior” role, while turning that character trope up to 11 by having him seem to utterly hate the two leads. He’s like J. Jonah Jameson forced to help Spider-Man, and this is a good thing.

But if you’d like to watch a show about an attractive, charming married couple on exciting adventures, I see no reason for you not to watch this show. I’ll give this one a few more viewings to see if it can build on the pilot’s solid groundwork. (Also it’s on Wednesdays at 8, and I can’t fathom what else would keep your attention then.)

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Comments
  1. sebastian says:

    You really nailed The Event. It’s not a good sign when a show could be improved by being more confusing. The story was so stunningly simple and told in such a hysterical convoluted way that it did feel like a parody or practical joke.

    It’s like they made the pilot and realized everything but the last seven minutes or so had nothing even superficially exciting going on, so they just decided to chop up the last seven minutes and put random pieces at act breaks.

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