NBC has spent a lot of time likening its new conspiracy thriller “The Event” to ABC’s recently wrapped sci-fi series “Lost.” That is what I like to call a big mistake. Having watched the first few weeks of “The Event,” I can only come to the conclusion that the show more or less sucks rocks.
It’s a difficult conclusion to come to given the amount of effort that obviously went into the show. The cast is impressive. The scripts are intricate. The premise is appropriately plus-sized. And still, it misses the mark by a wide margin.
The show centers around a looming “event” that a lot of people seem to want to prevent from happening. Since it’s a conspiracy thriller, we get this information filtered through a dizzying array of characters. Front and center is Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), an “ordinary” guy who goes on a cruise with his fiancée and ends up hijacking an airplane. (Relax. He’s only doing it to prevent his future father-in-law, who’s being blackmailed by evil forces, from crashing the plane into the President of the United States.)
The reason for all this centers around a mysterious, Guantánamo-like detention facility in the middle of Alaska, which houses that gimpy lady from “ER” (Laura Innes) and about a hundred other people who are clearly not from around here. Like, really not from around here. Most likely, they’re space aliens. The president (Blair Underwood) wants to set them free in the spirit of justice. But a whole bunch of somebodies don’t like that idea.
The worst part of “The Event” is that it’s impossible to care about any of the characters. I find myself mildly intrigued by this alien coverup, but I’m not at all interested in making that journey with the characters at hand. Jason Ritter’s character is supposed to be a relatable everyman, but he’s been running around like a junior league Jason Bourne since the show got underway. Everybody else (and there are a lot of everybody elses) gets about four minutes of screen time at a clip.
The show’s fractured timeline is another major hindrance. Sure, “Lost” jumped around in time—but it did so with clear intention. Each show concentrated on one character in one specific flashback, flash-forward or flash-sideways. Every other scene in “The Event” is accompanied by a title card reading “Three Weeks Ago” or “Two Hours Ago” or “20 Minutes Ago” or “60 Years Ago.” It’s impossible to keep the storyline straight. And unlike “Lost,” which used its time-shifts to tell detailed stories about its characters, “The Event” seems to be doing it for no reason other than to make its narrative more puzzle-like.
So far, the series appears to be showing its cards—tossing out detailed explanations about whatever mystery presented itself the previous week. But I’m fairly confident that’s all a ruse. In order to keep up the sense of mystery, “The Event” is obliged to rewrite its mythology every week, debunking past revelations and coming up with more ridiculous twists and turns. I fully expect a plot twist straight out of “The 4400” by season’s end. I’m not sure I’ll still be watching.