The mark of a good TV pilot is one which sets up the general conceit of the show, introduces its characters effectively, and gives the viewer a taste for what they can expect from the series week in, week out. A pilot episode is rarely ever ‘good TV’ because it needs to be ‘good set-up for TV’.
The Event is all set-up, but falls well short of being a good pilot.
At the end of the pilot for The Event, it is no more clear to viewers what the show will be about, let alone who the characters actually are or what the general tone of the show will be. Viewers aren’t even sure what The Event was, beyond that they saw ‘something’ happen. As the advertisements for the show keep reminding us, “The assassination attempt is not The Event”. That’s correct, but if the promotion isn’t going to tell us what The Event is, the show itself probably should.
The plot of The Event follows a young guy named Sean Walker who is set to propose to his girlfriend while on vacation. Before getting the chance to propose, she disappears from their hotel room with the entire world claiming that neither she, nor Walker, had booked the room (it’s very Nowhere Man). Walker then hijacks a plane, which is to serve as part of an exceedingly elaborate assassination attempt on the US President (Blair Underwood). Walker is very eager to talk to the pilot of the plane, but could that be for reasons beyond needing to control the plane? Oh, and in the last 2 mins of the show, ‘the event’ takes place.
There is an obvious need for mystery in The Event. By the final few minutes of the pilot, viewers experience two good plot twists. The first takes place on the plane, while the second is ‘the event’. The problem is that the show does very little to earn viewers interest in these two plot twists. With bland characters, and an un-engaging plot set-up (lots of people standing around saying that ‘the event’ is coming does not a thrilling or mysterious tale make), viewers are more than likely to be channel surfing away from the show well before ‘the event’ takes place.
What the show does earn is an unfavorable comparison to last years big budget, highly promoted sci-fi mystery show ‘Flash Forward’. When Flash Forward aired, it quickly lost viewers who were frustrated that there was a central mystery to the show that was based on a really strong concept, yet the characters and their problems were so horribly dull that it was difficult to commit to watching a single episode, let alone watch the show on a weekly basis. The Event practically apes the entire model for Flash Forward, but takes it a single step further by not even revealing to the audience what the strong concept is at the core of the show. In coming weeks, The Event may be dealing with aliens, time-travel, secret Stonecutter conspiracies, or large-headed dwarves from an alternative universe.
A central mystery can be a great way to generate interest in a new show. Take Lost for example. That show kicked off similarly with a mystery (Why have the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 landed on an unchartered island filled with all manner of mysterious animals and objects?). While that mystery is no better than that from The Event (What or who is responsible for ‘the event’ taking place?), the difference lies in the fact that Lost didn’t rely on the mystery alone. Instead it was a show filled with interesting and unique characters, their interplay, and their actions. The Event relies on a poorly structured plot, while lacking any real characters or humanity.
Plot establishment. Characterization. Theme development. Humor. Warmth. Humanity. There’s just too much missing from pilot for The Event to merit it as time well spent with the show. That said, I am curious and do love a good train wreck, so I’ll likely stick it out for a couple of episodes yet. The Event has a long way to go to earn my regular viewership.
The Event starts its run on Channel 7 tonight at 8:30pm, fast-tracked to air 6.5 days later than its US airing.