Tuned In

Test Pilot: The Event

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Test Pilot is a semiregular feature sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next fall’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots can be rewritten, recast and retooled before airing, and the shows that eventually get on the air can prove much better or worse. But premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: The Event (a.k.a. The EV-backwards-E-NT), NBC

The Premise: After the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee, Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) stumbles onto a mysterious international conspiracy somehow involving his mysterious future father-in-law (Scott Patterson). Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious attack on the new U.S. President Martinez (Blair Underwood) after he learns of a secret location filled with mysterious detainees. After the pilot’s mysterious cliffhanger, you’ll know that you are watching… a mystery.

First Impressions: It is probably time to retire the sentence “____ is _____’s attempt to make the next Lost.” We all know where that usually ends, and anyway, it doesn’t feel exactly true in this case. The Event, really, feels more like NBC’s attempt to create the next FlashForward: an extremely plot-forward sci-fi thriller with a Big Question and no characters per se so much as game pieces. NBC plugs it as “an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller,” but in the pilot I saw no emotion, so much as situations recognizable as “scenarios you set up when you want to generate emotion”: e.g., the interminable cruise vacation Sean and his fiancée take to get you invested in them before her disappearance. The debut delivers the “high-octane” much better. There are echoes of 24 (producer Evan Katz is an alum) in the breakneck chase scenes and the general air of menace, as well as the situation of a President working against an oily Zeljko Ivanek-type adviser (played here by Zeljko Ivanek). Is it suspenseful? In the sense that I ended the first hour not knowing what was going on, yeah. But not quite in the sense that I ended the hour dying to find out. Without characters to hang its story on, The Event comes across as enigmatic without being engaging.

Do I Want to See Another Episode? I’m mildly curious, and considering the talent involved, the show could turn around. But considering how frantically the pilot works to make me want to see another episode—not that much.