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Chris Russell said on September 22nd, 2010 at 10:30 am

Heroes had a… good pilot? I thought it was flat-out unwatchable.

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I think when they write the history of this era in TV, Lost will probably be remembered as the last serialized show of this kind to be a big hit for a network. (I’m assuming The Event doesn’t hold its audience, I didn’t see the pilot but several commentators seem to feel the same way as you.) After the latest wave of Lost imitators crash and burn, the networks will have to go in a new direction … right?

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Bah. How can you lump T:tSCC in with the rest of these? Talk about the baby with the bathwater…

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Wait. They reveal what happens in an action sequence before it happens?

Geeze. Last time I remember seeing that was Doug Adams in Hitchhiker’s. And that was a joke.

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The Event premiere was so very very very bad. Beyond the mistakes you mentioned, there were other things that stuck in my craw:

1) Instead of having a mystery that is also a mystery to the people involved on-screen, we have a mystery that it seems everyone on-screen knows about (or figures out), and we’re supposed to be the only ones confused. To support this you have characters talk to each other about events, in a way no real people ever do. Leaving out specific pronouns and references so that we’re left in the dark as viewers.

2) We are a vast global conspiracy, we will kill your wife and kidnap your daughters, we’ll have the databases of a cruise line / hotel, we will disappear the regular pilot for the flight so you can replace him, we will shut down all radar on the eastern seaboard and knock two fighter planes out of the sky…

… but we’ll leave your daughter’s boyfriend alone so that he can scream and shout and bring a lot of attention to the fact that something mysterious is going on.

… and we won’t simply infiltrate the Secret Service and plant a bomb in the building we want to blow up.

… or make a fake news truck and fill it with explosives.

… or (insert any number of better ways to succeed in destroying that house)

Such a bad first episode.

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So, how does the granddaddy stack up against these rules? What, then, about Twin Peaks?

(Seriously; I haven’t seen the non-European-movified version of the pilot since the original airing and can’t quite judge via memory.)

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Yeah, whatever tiny glimmers of quality eventually appeared on Heroes, they weren’t evident from the pilot, which was terrible.

I’m really baffled at your continuing hatred for Dollhouse, Chris. It was a flawed show, and started weakly, for sure. But by the second season it became pretty damn solid, certainly loads better than any of the failed shows referenced above. And it ended up telling a complete, satisfying story, unlike all the other mythology-heavy shows. Hell, I like the way Dollhouse wrapped up better than BSG’s “a wizard did it” ending or Lost’s “oh crap, maybe we should have thought of an ending” ending.

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@Jeff, I think Twin Peaks is almost a platonic ideal of these rules. Since the pilot is structured as a film you have all three of these elements represented: The mystery of Laura Plamer, Agent Cooper, and (from what I remember) there’s a limited amount of outright Lynchian weirdness on display (I mean, compared to what was to come in Season 2).

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I actually refused to watch The Event specifically because they made it so vague.

You can just tell they were trying so hard to make it mysterious to catch people’s attention. Like a kid telling you he hid something under your pillow, and not telling you what it is. They draw attention to the fact that HAHA YOU KNOW NOTHING and that makes me intensely uninterested.

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I watched the pilot and was mystified about the time jumps. Was there rhyme or reason to them? Would the show have been hurt by just focusing on one or two povs in a linear fashion, leading up to the plane being . . . whatever happened to it. (Swallowed by a wormhole? Sucked into an alternate universe? Disintegrated by aliens?)

And the romance angle was schmaltzy as fuck.

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Cookie McCool said on September 22nd, 2010 at 12:52 pm

“The Event” just sounds like it would suck. Why not just call your show “Some Stuffs”? Or maybe “That One Guy”? I would watch the hell out That One Guy.

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Of course, the big flaw in ‘FlashForward’ is the surprising lack of people whose visions are of themselves waving and going “HI THERE PAST ME! IT IS ME FROM THE FUTURE! LALALAAAA”

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Chrisrw109 – See, I thought that there were two sides at play. One who grabbed dad and one who grabbed the girlfriend. One side was using dad to crash the plane and the other was using the boyfriend to try to stop it….

None of it really makes any freaking sense.

I really liked Journeyman but I also knew it was doomed.

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Per your instructions, the three viewpoints are the Dude who who misplaced his fiancee, the President man, and the Cop dude who might be in on it. All the other characters interface with one or more of these three.

And the hook is what’s foreshadowed at the end of the pilot, where we see all the bits converge in one… Event. Yes, you have to finish the episode to see it.

It might not be the best mythology-heavy opener ever, but I think you’re a bit harsh on it.

And I say this as someone who watched all of Persons Unknown. And Happy Town.

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Journeyman was really a fantastic show, especially if you viewed it as a story about the love between the protagonist and his wife. I’m still angry at NBC for not even putting it on DVD. (At least it didn’t have time to deteriorate into a schizophrenic pile of crap, like Heroes did).

Sarah Connor Chronicles was another great show that ended before its time. I don’t think it deserves to be mentioned along with the other shows you highlighted mainly because its mythology wasn’t a sprawling mystery — we already know how it ends, after all. The draw of SCC was its characters, and their (often mysterious) motivations. If it had gotten just one or two more seasons, I’m confident it would have become an enduring classic much like its feature-length predecessors.

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Greg Morrow said on September 22nd, 2010 at 2:22 pm

So my question about The Event is: Is the ground shaking and vibration that the President experiences meant to be caused by the approaching _plane_? ‘Cause I flat-out disbelieve that. And if it wasn’t caused by the plane, they did a shitty job of conveying that there were two strange and threatening things going on at the same time.

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Actually isn’t The Prisoner the granddaddy of them all?

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Tales to Enrage said on September 22nd, 2010 at 3:03 pm

@Kid Kyoto,

I can see that argument, but I think the Prisoner isn’t the granddaddy of all prime time mythology heavy series because it wasn’t consciously trying to create a mythology for a long-form series. Aside from the first, second to last, and last episode, there’s no clear chronological order to everything-watching Episode 12 and then Episode 3 won’t spoil something referenced in Episode 3. Or 4, for that matter. It also never promised any kind of eventual explanation for the Village or Number 1. Which, of course, is part of the reason it’s a classic-there’s no one holding the viewer’s hand and saying “Don’t worry, my dear, it will all make sense in the end!”

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@Cookie: How can you not be drawn in by a show titled “The Event.” Look again: THE Event. It’s not “Some Event” or “An Event” or “That Event.” It’s got the definite article “The” and ipso facto must be important. It’s definite!

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@Cookie: Right? I also thought it had the unfortunate tinge of “The Happening.” It even means basically the same thing.

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Mister Alex said on September 22nd, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Other Less than Compelling Titles:

Some Bridge Over a River Somewhere
A Big Deep Hole You Shouldn’t Gaze At
An Arrangement of Numbers in Chart Form
A Number of French Guards with Weapons
A Guy Who Tries to Find Androids
Somebody who Did Something to Some Other Guy

(can you name the original titles??)

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Mister Alex said on September 22nd, 2010 at 3:46 pm

PMMDJ: But the plane vanishing wasn’t “The Event”, was it? That would be LLLLAAAMMMEE.

Although for reasons mentioned above it was rather LLLLAAAAAAMMMEEEE in any case.

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Mister Alex:
A Number of French Guards with Weapons: The Three Musketeers.

‘S all I got.

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Some Bridge Over a River Somewhere
A Big Deep Hole You Shouldn’t Gaze At
An Arrangement of Numbers in Chart Form
A Number of French Guards with Weapons
A Guy Who Tries to Find Androids
Somebody who Did Something to Some Other Guy

Bridge Over The River Kwai
The Abyss
The Matrix
The Three Musketeers
Blade Runner
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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So I’m not the only person out there who actually enjoyed Journeyman! Huzzah!

Sorta glad I decided to skip the Event and watch Lonestar (which was a little “meh” but at least I have a clear sense of what is going on there.) I think I’m a little too burnt out after Lost to have to deal with another one of these shows (still watching Fringe though, which is a milder form of it I suppose.)

And as Paul O’Brien pointed out on his site, whenever I hear the show’s name all I can think of is this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga_rCnueID8

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I really liked Kings. And no one remembers CBS’s rip-off of Lost about a hurricane with William Fichtner?

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I’m not sure how much being “continuity-heavy” really is a factor. We have successes that are continuity-heavy (Fringe from the start tried to be X-Files at its most mysterious) and we have cancellations that are continuity-lite (Eleventh Hour was a generic weekly cop show with science-based crimes).

As problematic is why a show is on the air in the first place. We are currently in the generation of Lost clones. These are shows that aren’t necessarily getting approved on their own merits, but rather getting fast-tracked or even sought after because they can be described in terms of Lost.

Though it isn’t an issue with the Lost-clones on the major networks, sci-fi related shows in the past also had their fates tied to whatever network they were on. While they agreed to air it, Fox never seemed to actually want Firefly, and it showed in how they treated it. Reaper was canceled when the CW network decided to shift its targeted audience to young women. (Supernatural and Smallville had hunky guys to go with their ratings, but Reaper didn’t.)

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PMMDJ: I highly doubt the plane thing was the event. I think the event was the initial appearance of the prison full of alien type people when the CIA first became aware that there was life on another planet/in another dimension/living on a dandelion held in an elephant’s trunk.

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[…] Over at Mighty God-King we have a critique of the new series, The Event.  Now, I haven’t seen the show, and from what I’ve been reading about it, I don’t have any desire to, but MGK’s post brings up some very good points that are not just applicable to series television, but to fiction generally.  I can boil it down to a general rule of thumb; in the hook of your book/trilogy/film/TV series, no matter how complex the story is going to become in terms of plot and style and world-building, you need to keep the focus tight, the action straightforward, and the narrative as comprehensible as possible.  A reader must have a emotional investment in the story before they’re asked to follow truly convoluted plots or intricate world-building, or major structural slights of hand.  Without that, they just aren’t going to invest the mental energy to follow what your doing, or care about it when they do figure it out. […]

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“Lost‘s first episode is the crash of Oceanic 817 and the immediate fallout from it.”

Oceanic 815, not 817. I’m sure this is just a typo (at least I hope it’s a typo).

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Lister Sage said on September 23rd, 2010 at 2:50 am

Mister Alex: “A Big Deep Hole You Shouldn’t Gaze At”

Dude, Where’s My Car?

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@Poormojo — It took me until the first commercial break or so to figure out the rhyme/reason behind the timejumps: I think they were shooting for a Lost-style flashback device to reveal the motivation and backstory of the characters, but obviously, they could’ve handled all of that better.

That said, I wasn’t too upset or put off by the pilot episode. It wasn’t jaw-droppingly awesome television, but it wasn’t awful or uninteresting. It had decent pacing, there were characters who actually did things, it surprised me a few times, and it didn’t treat the audience like a bunch of drooling idiots who couldn’t figure out anything from context or remember more than the previous three minutes of the show. These are all things that other Lost-alikes usually screw up badly in their pilots.

It was good enough to get me to stick around for the second episode.

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Er… correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Dollhouse, Heroes, and SCC all actually DO all this stuff? And they still got canceled. I’m note sure why they’re lumped in as examples of failures with shows that didn’t do it.

Admittedly, I suppose the unspoken universal ur-advice attached to this post is ‘Oh, and you have to not suck. That’s important.’ But still.

And no mention of Fringe? Really? Not even down here in the thread? I have to be the first to point out that both it and Supernatural are pulling their pacing and plot structure straight out of the X-Files playbook and doing juuuuust fine?

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I think the most important thing is for these type of shows is: do weird shit to engage audiences, then use it to highlight story and the characters

The problem with most of these new ones, and what I think happened with Lost, is that instead it goes : use characters and story to highlight weird shit.

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Mister Alex said on September 23rd, 2010 at 9:31 am

MGK — Congrats, you got them all! (Fanfare) I honestly didn’t expect anyone to get “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance”. :-)

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Mister Alex said on September 23rd, 2010 at 9:33 am

Also, in “The Event”, Laura Innes and that guy talk about “shouldn’t they have a chance to prepare themselves” which indicates, I think fairly clearly, that The Event is some big scary booglie thing that has yet to happen.

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Lump me in with the fans of Journeyman. It was a Quantum Leap “homage”, but it was a decent one.

And I’ll second CB’s statement that by trying so hard to be mysterious, NBC actively sold me off The Event. Airing Heroes, Persons Unknown, Kings, and Journeyman didn’t give me hopes that this show would take off either. NBC seems to be a place where genre shows go to be stillborn or die; much like Fox in the 90’s.

Personally, I wish more shows went the Babylon 5 approach of telling the audience early on how it’ll all end, and then having an interesting story of how the characters get to that point (along with lots of surprises and twists along the way). In the B5 pilot the audience is told “this guy will die, while killing that guy”, and later on we see visions of war that come to pass, the aftermath of that war, and even the freaking end of the Earth.

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Lithera – Ummm.. I don’t think so actually. Because if they don’t have the daughters, then they have nothing to pressure the Dad with. ‘If you don’t crash this plane and kill yourself and dozens of other people… then we’ll kill you,’ lacks the benefit of an upside.

I actually really liked Journeyman and thought it was finding it’s footing and exploring some interesting stuff (like the episode where his Brother gets fully on board… but then their actions reset the time-stream so none of it ever happened). The active exploration of paradox was interesting, and they had a lot of little touches that might have turned into great things (or been explored really badly and made me hate the producers).

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Where does Rubicon fit into this? Or have you even been watching it? I have heard mixed things and have yet to test the waters.

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What about ‘The 4400’? I found that show incredibly entertaining, individually digestible but with ongoing story, and I think it was done before and better than many of these. It died far too early, and I honestly think that if it came out now and were touted as a new Heroes or Lost it would have much more success than it did. Just my $.02

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Fringe is a different sort of animal ,as is Alias or Chuck for that matter. In all of them you have a “monster/mission of the week” default format that’s supposed to be good enough to hold a casual audience week to week, and you slowly introduce mythology bits. (You may also have an intermediate level of ‘season arc’ that you service as well.)

The shows that this is about don’t have that. They’re all mythology, all the time. And that, generally speaking, doesn’t work unless you leaven it with deep-focus character studies, especially at the beginning, which, more than Pilot design, is the Lost key that the imitators aren’t successfully copying over.

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@Jeff R. – That’s an excellent point; also, the thing Lost did so well that its imitators tend to screw up is that the character flashbacks (-forwards, -sideways, etc.) were always about something that related well thematically to whatever was going on with that character. That shared theme turned what would have been pointless digression and random information into insight, and tied the episode together.

It was a really neat trick, and of all the things I wish shows tried to copy about Lost, I think it’s the most important. None of them did, though. :(

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Citizen Bacillus said on September 24th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Near as I can figure, the point behind ‘Kings’ was “Hey look, it’s Ian McShane! And he’s doing stuff!” It was good enough for me.

I can’t argue with your reasoning, but I think you’re wrong on one point: I’m willing to bet most Americans AREN’T familiar with the Book of Kings other than ‘David kills Goliath; becomes king, somehow.’

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Boo. I liked Dollhouse.

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