TV review: ‘The Event’ attempts to corner ‘Lost’ market with mystery and suspense

By Andrew Padgett

Nick Wauters, the creator, writer and co−executive producer of NBC’s new series “The Event,” seems painfully unaware that he is not, in fact, J. J. Abrams.

Not to completely dismiss the show’s frequent−flashback narrative structure or the way five new mysteries pop up around every corner, but hasn’t America had enough? Everyone is still recovering from “Lost” (2004−10) – viewers may not be prepared for lackluster but mildly intriguing rip−offs yet.

There are, of course, fundamental differences between “The Event” and its spiritual predecessor from which it borrows so heavily. For one, the characters are less interesting in “The Event.” After careful scrutiny, three general character groups emerge from the tangle of flashbacks and seemingly random murders.

First we have Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) and his girlfriend Leila (Sarah Roemer), an above−average couple exchanging above−average lines with each other on a cruise in Antigua. It is unclear why these people are important, but before the cruise ends, Leila’s been kidnapped and there is no record of either of them ever boarding the ship. How mysterious.

Sean and Leila’s unfortunate tale is told entirely via flashbacks; in the present, Leila is tied to a chair and Sean is hijacking planes and getting framed for murder – you know, the usual. The story almost makes sense if viewers are agile enough to piece together the show’s perplexing timeline, but not really.

The next group includes U.S. President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood), who basically serves as a carbon copy of David Palmer from “24” (2001−10), and all of his probably evil political lackeys who do not want him to reveal the titular event to the American public. A few rather large events have already occurred in two episodes (for example, an airborne plane kind of just disappears), so viewers are left unclear about what the singular event really is. Ultimately, “The Event” should not be applauded for its specifics.

And at the heart of all this, of course, are aliens.

Yes, unbeknown to Martinez until 13 months ago (as illustrated by countless flashbacks), the United States has been harboring 97 extra−terrestrial fugitives – who conveniently look exactly like humans but have a few special powers – in a remote Alaskan internment camp for six decades. They refuse to explain where they came from or why they are here, which follows the show’s irritating preoccupation with mystery. The only thing that head alien Sophia (Laura Innes) can say is, “We mean you no harm.”

Time will tell whether Sophia (easily the only interesting character in the entire show) means what she says, or if she, in fact, wants to destroy Earth and all humankind. Either way, Innes is a great actress and definitely a reason to continue playing along with “The Event’s” nonsense.

Unfortunately, the other actors are not as compelling.

In other news, Wauters and a handful of producers have promised that they will not leave all of the show’s mysteries suspended for eternity the same way “Lost” did. This promise could prove heartening for frustrated fans who love a little suspense and uncertainty in their television, but also prefer having their questions answered before their grandkids have grandkids.

What viewers need more than anything right now is a few answers, and if Wauters and his team understand this, then “The Event” just might be able to pull through and stave off cancellation for a few months.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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