Monday, March 17, 2014

New Television II

Now that the 2014 Winter Olympics have passed, another new crop of mid-season replacement series have emerged to demand our limited time and attention. Here are my thoughts on three of these new series:

Resurrection (ABC)

This series had the unenviable task of premiering opposite three TV programs that I was much more interested in watching, The Walking Dead (AMC), True Detective (HBO) and Cosmos (FOX). Since my DVR isn’t capable of recording more than two shows at a time, I already had to record the midnight encore of True Detective just to ensure I could see all of the programs I actually wanted to see. Fortunately for Resurrection, ABC also played an encore of the premiere on the following Saturday. Unfortunately for Resurrection, that premiere episode did little to make me want to watch more.

Resurrection stars Omar Epps as J. Martin Bellamy, some kind of Federal Agent who deals with immigration issues. When an 8-year-old American boy with no passport turns up in rural China and is returned to the United States, Bellamy is charged with transporting him back home. The thing is back home, Arcadia, Missouri, has reported no missing children, and when Bellamy tracks down a family that he hopes will provide a clue to the mystery, it appears that the boy, Jacob, drowned 32 years earlier. Kurtwood Smith plays the boy’s father; equal parts surprised and skeptical at the return of the son he knows he buried. Is it a miracle, or is it a trick? Even positive DNA evidence does little to resolve the issue. And Jacob’s story about what happened on the day he drowned varies significantly from the official account.

The end of the episode takes us to a predictable place; setting up the next long dead loved one to be resurrected. I imagine they’ll do this every week, new family, new person, new tragic death story, new skepticism, new belief. I doubt it will add up to much, or that the mystery will be solved. They would have to keep the series going after all, should it be picked up. As for me, there not enough here to try and squeeze another mediocre TV show into my viewing schedule.

Believe (NBC)

Much like what happened a couple of seasons ago, when both ABC and NBC each premiered a series with a fairy tale theme (Once Upon a Time and Grimm), Believe is NBC’s answer to Resurrection. It also features a child at the center of the story, although unlike the little boy who comes back from the dead this one features a young girl with extraordinary powers, some kind of telekinesis coupled with the power to control animals (birds, butterflies). The adult in this story is a death row inmate named Tate (Jake McLaughlin) who is freed from prison on the night of his execution because Winter (Delroy Lindo) thinks he is the best person to protect Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), the girl with all the powers. People who want to use her gifts for their own nefarious purposes, the chief among them played by Kyle MacLachlan, are hunting her. Hide, run, action, inspire random person with your power; that seems to be the formula for this particular series. The writing and acting are certainly solid enough, but at the end of the day I just don’t think it will add up to much. So like Resurrection, this series is also one I will pass on.

Cosmos (FOX)

The antidote to the wishful thinking inspired by the previous two fictional series is the 2014 reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. This program promises to reveal the deep and wonderful mysteries of the universe without requiring you to believe in any sort of powers or spontaneous resurrections. Here there is just science and the complexities and beauty of the universe that it reveals. Following faithfully in Sagan’s footsteps, host Neil deGrasse Tyson sets sail on the Ship of the Imagination, showing us our cosmic address by taking us along through our solar system, galaxy and the universe. The episode next takes us into the past to reveal the story of Giordano Bruno, a Renaissance Era Italian who had a vision of an infinite universe, one teeming with all possible worlds, who was condemned and executed by the Roman authorities for heresy. Although an important story, I’d have preferred to see it saved for a later episode, rather than alienate the audience most in need of scientific enlightenment right from the start. Tyson then takes us on an odyssey through time, placing the events of the past 13 billion years on a Cosmic Calendar. From the Big Bang that starts the process at 12:00 midnight on January 1st to the last 14 seconds of December 31st that represents the whole of written human history, this Cosmic Calendar gives us the means to understand the vast timescales that have gone into the emergence of our universe and ourselves. A final personal tribute to Sagan from Tyson nicely ties the new series to its predecessor. Although not really intellectually challenging for the scientifically literate, the new Cosmos is a wonderful and glorious look at the vast complexity of the universe.

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