The Event, Good Riddance!

It seemed so promising at first; the advertising for it was almost wall to wall in every advertising slot between other programmes on NBC (and elsewhere too) and hopes were high that this show could be another “Lost” yet it was obvious from the outset, the pilot episode itself, that The Peacock Network (NBC) had failed to land a new show with the audience appeal and ratings figures it had hoped for….so what went wrong? I’ll try to answer that question.

On this site Jo Curtis has frequently praised The Event (see ) and challenged me to write this entry to explain why I feel it was a certainty for cancellation…actually that’s the easiest question to answer in that we only have to look at the miserable viewing figures it garnered and the costs of making the show which could only have been justified had it been the mass market hit NBC had hoped it would be. Consider the view of another respected site and you’ll see just how bad its viewing figures over the series have been…it is grim reading and The Event would have needed almost half as many again as it had of viewers to have had any chance of renewal…in fact given its cost and the effort and expense spent by NBC on advertising it that would have been highly unlikely to have been enough too.

So…the ratings are clear and the demise of the show was thus a foregone conclusion and we are left with why it was such a turkey, for turkey it surely was (sorry Jo but the ratings don’t leave that in any real doubt)?

Even before I viewed the pilot episode I saw postings elsewhere mocking it, and rightly so I’d judge, as the show featured “aliens” from a far away world whose home had brought forth a species so utterly human that other than increased longevity and a minor difference in blood chemistry were, to all intents and purposes, human…they were even able to interbreed with humans without need for in vitro fertilisation or any other high-tech methods…very old school practices did the job just fine. This is a scenario so preposterous and naïve as to be unacceptable in even the trashiest of sci-fi novels yet it is the central premise of The Event and only in its penultimate episode have the writers made any attempt to explain it…way too late by then as so many viewers had abandoned it in disgust/derision.

I felt that with so little good sci-fi on TV these days I’d give it a try anyhow and hoped that even if the central premise was risible the cinematography along with the acting and charismatic qualities of the cast might make for a worthwhile product…boy was I out of luck!

The series rolled out with a boatload of flashbacks…a device that ought only to be used very sparingly, if at all, and that served to put off even more viewers. This flashback feast continued in all episodes until NBC pulled the series off air for a hiatus, with many commentators wondering if they’d bring it back but suspecting that they’d sunk so much money into it already that they had little choice so to do…and thus it returned after its hiatus but with a more slimline diet of flashbacks this time. The reasoning behind the flashbacks was one of giving us a long tailed back story in easily digested pieces but it failed miserably. The flashbacks helped lose it many, many viewers who were never to return and given that they killed any lingering feeling of pace that was in the first half of the season who can blame them! I’d suggest that multiple flashbacks are a sure sign of a poor director and writer (possibly plurals for both and a raspberry to the show runner too) and their additional faux pas of flashing back to almost endlessly varying past time compounds the inanity.

The cast was simply too big and too full of front line players rather than a chorus line ensemble and this made for a horrible structural problem in the scripting…each of the major players had to be given screen time in almost every episode thus resulting in each one getting only a little airing this not being enough to give good character development or to make the audience give a damn about the characters. As a result the characters did not manage to draw in the viewers and any hope of individuals charismatic acting saving the series from miserable viewing figures were illusory at best…this is not to say that some good actors and actresses weren’t involved…they were but they were wasted. The ever changing focus needed to accommodate this top heavy cast also had a negative impact on plot development…such as it was and it really wasn’t much.

The second half of the season brought forward a new plot line…Sentinels…another race that is human in any way you might view them…might be human I suppose given the other plot twists…but has, apparently, been our front line protection squad since the year dot…what an utterly laughable plot dimension…and in many sci-fi circles it did, indeed, bring out a lot of laughter. To add this to an already risible initial premise killed any hope of the plot being taken seriously by all but a tiny core of die hard fans.

The scripts appear to have behind them the notion that if you take an uninteresting, downright dull even, notion and say it in a weird enough way it suddenly transmutes into scripting gold dust…sorry guys but lead stays lead and you don’t have a Philosopher’s Stone handy.

Let’s round this dissection of the turkey off with a look at the dire casting inflicted upon it. Blair Underwood as US President Martinez lack the necessary gravitas…he looks serious almost all the time but that isn’t the same as having gravitas; judging by his performance he seems to be a busted flush whose under-acting contrasts poorly with Zeljko Ivanek, perhaps a reversal of the casting might have helped but it would have not helped enough . Jason Ritter playing Sean Walker is far too lightweight an actor to properly carry such a role…he tries hard but that’s about all he’s able to do. Laura Innes as Sophia, the aliens leader isn’t as bad but is still far from good. Bill Smitrovich as Vice-President Raymond Jarvis is one bright spot…he’s actually very good but can’t save the rest…who could? Blake Sterling, played by Zeljko Ivanek is mostly good but is far too old to be a credible action man as one episode asked him to be…leaving that aside he, like Smitrovich, does do a good job with poor scripting. I won’t single out any other cast members…none were of sufficient note so to do…but as an overall ensemble they failed on so many levels that the casting itself has to be seen as a significant factor in the failure of the series. Not one of the cast really managed to make me care about the fate of the character they were playing, even the good couple of ones were so hampered by the rest it couldn’t work out well.

The success of “Lost” appears to have spawned firstly “Flash Forward” (a much better series than The Event but still deserving of its cancellation) and now The Event itself but while “Lost” certainly got plenty weird and convoluted as it progressed it didn’t start off that way and it took the effort to have a good platform to base its eventual oddities and convolutions upon…not so with the two follow on series I’ve cited above. Sadly in each season these shows eat up a lot of budget that could have generated good programming, be it sci-fi or not, and I thus firmly hope, and trust to the money men, that enough is enough and we don’t get another in the season to come.

I really ought to have given up on this clunker after seeing the pilot episode as many of its viewers certainly did. A cancellation that was richly deserved and had the network not spent so much on it I have no doubt that it would have been cancelled and burnt off online too.


1 Comment

  1. Gerard McGarry

    Another good post, TrueSatan. I see your point about Lost, but I’ve always felt that Heroes was the start of this “blockbuster series” phenomenon. These ensemble cast, big budget, overhyped sci-fi series that studios gamble big on, they usually end up extremely disappointing.

    I’ve only dipped in and out of The Event. I think the cancellation of FlashForward last year didn’t fill me with hope that The Event would a) be worth watching and b) last beyond one season. I think the hiatus didn’t help. I felt like I’d only missed a couple of episodes, but somewhere along the line Sophia had morphed into one of the bad guys (despite earlier punishing her son for plotting against the humans). Ultimately I suppose I was never invested from the get-go.

    Casting was extremely wobbly for me, particularly Jason Ritter. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t take his wee baby face seriously in the role. And Sarah Roemer was stunning to look at, but their entire storyline felt ludicrous. I would have paid a scriptwriter on the show a healthy bribe to kill both characters off.

    Of course, the real problem with The Event being cancelled is that it’ll make the networks a lot more timid about investing in this type of show. When what they really need to do is to find one damned good story and stick to it. Another side effect of the post-Lost era is that people want these shows to run for five or more years. What they really need is to tell a solid story, perhaps encapsulated in one or two seasons rather than these meandering  serials that are obviously being made up as the writers go along.

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