As noted in our original review, we here at The ‘Tastic are big fans of the new NBC series, The Event. Unfortunately, since its premiere, the audience numbers have dropped steadily and the show is on life-support at this point and it’s completely unnecessary. We still stand by the contention that it’s one of the best new shows on TV but we are backing off the contention that we made that it is the second best new show on TV and if we were to review it today, instead of the admittedly generous 9 out of 10 we gave it after the premiere of the pilot, we would probably rate it a 7 or 7.5 at best. We think we know what’s wrong and how to fix it.
The problem with the show is simple: the audience needs less talk and more rock. Showrunner/executive producer Evan Katz, who is probably the greatest asset to the show, is probably its biggest liability as well. The Event has been acting as if it’s a successful genre show, with a built-in audience in the middle of its fourth or fifth season and truthfully it’s been acting like this since the mind-numbing (albeit exciting) pilot episode with the 8,000 flashbacks and flash-forwards. The ‘Tastic admits that as genre-geeks, we may have been a little bit more over-exuberant and a little less objective for The Event than we probably would have been for another type of a show.
The fact is that as cool as this show is, we can certainly understand why the confusing back-and-forth in the pilot episode probably caused a substantial portion of the audience to jump ship immediately. Now, the flashbacks have been used much more effectively, not as much and solely for the purpose of character development (similar to how Lost did it but not as significant to the plot) since that pilot and that is an improvement, however, what’s killing this show now is the fact that was alluded to before: it’s not doing anything to keep or attract audience members. The story is very good but it’s also very slooooooooooooow for the most part with the occasional highlights of frenetic action.
Again, this type of “behavior” from a show is completely acceptable and often quite typical from a popular, established genre show with a dedicated audience but it is incredibly dangerous to do with a new show especially when it’s a niche-genre show to begin with. It’s difficult enough for a standard procedural show to build an audience, but for a Sci-Fi/Action-Thriller, it needs to immediately appeal to a general audience and hook them and the producers have to be simple about how they go about doing that. They need to go with what always works: ‘splosions… lots of them… often… and repeated chases and gunfights. Get into the cerebral crap and the plodding character development later on when you’ve already got ’em hooked. Tell an easy to follow story, initially, with a couple of good twists thrown in for good measure and rock and roll, already.
The failure of The Event to play it safe and do what’s necessary for a genre show to be successful on network TV rests squarely on the shoulders of Katz and as fans of the genre, it’s coming off to us as a bit arrogant. We are big fans of Katz and his work but he is running this show as if it’s 24, season nine or Lost, season seven as if 10 million people are tuning every week without fail. Sorry, but The Event is nowhere near ready to be at that comfort-level. General audiences are skeptical of genre shows to begin, and they are particularly skeptical of Sci-Fi shows.
We love The Event and we want to see it last more than just one season. We have come up with a plan of action that if followed, may indeed save this series (if it’s not too late already).
1. You got some splainin’ to do. Stop acting as if every week, everyone already knows what’s happening. Explain it every week until at least the second season and we don’t mean just in the teaser. You’re never going to build an audience with new viewers if they have no idea what’s going on when they jump in mid-stream.
2. Simplify. We love a complex Sci-Fi story, but you need to pare it down a little bit. There are far too many sub-plots going on with this show considering how new it is. Simplify it just a tad. The joke with Lost was that it was four seasons in before fans realized they were watching a Sci-Fi show. That’s how The Event needs to position itself. Compelling stories that are easy to follow that make the audience forget that they are even watching a Sci-Fi show.
3. Less flashbacks. As noted, the flashbacks are not nearly as bad as they were in the pilot, however, they are unnecessary for the most part as is most of the character development. This is one of the more confusing aspects of the show production. Here we have a show that has been described (even by us) as the mutant offspring of 24 and Lost and is executive produced by the former executive producer of 24 (Katz) and it is obvious that the intent is to produce a show similar to 24 (which is something else we noted in our review in regards to NBC). So knowing this, the question is, why exactly are they wasting their time with so much back-story and so much character development?
This is an action-thriller. We don’t need this much information about these characters. Fill us in with the minor details as we go along. We don’t need the life story on all 500 characters of this ensemble. I found out more about Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) in the first six episodes of this season than I ever knew about Jack Bauer in 192 episodes of 24.
Leave some mystery for God’s sake. It makes the show more interesting. Here’s a prime example: It turns out that Vicky Roberts (Taylor Cole) has a son. Instead of just letting us know that she had this child and having our protagonists use the knowledge of this child to manipulate her, the writers provided us with this protracted and elaborate origins story in the form of several flashbacks explaining how she took the child as a baby from one of her assassination targets when she was supposed to kill the baby as well and she has been raising him as her own in secret ever since (with the help of her mother). This was completely unnecessary for the story and the flashbacks took up nearly an entire episode. If they wanted to drop that story in along the way in bits and pieces, in the form of exposition through dialogue, fine, awesome, bring it, but don’t waste an entire episode in a lame attempt to take the audience by the hand to guide them through a story.
It’s not only insulting to the audience, but it paints you in a corner with nowhere to go with the character’s history in case the story goes in a different direction. Just consider how long it took to tell the back-story of the characters on Lost. The audience was given snippets for years on each character until the picture was complete and not only did it work brilliantly but it left them completely open to change the characters as the story progressed.
So, between these protracted flashbacks with these elaborate back-stories and the numerous subplots, The Event is wasting a lot of screen time unnecessarily. So, from now on, no more flashbacks unless absolutely necessary.
4. More ‘splosions, please. And what we mean by this is more action in general. This goes back what we said about “less talk, more rock.” For an action show, The Event is lacking in the action department and if the producers follow the advice as set forward above regarding sub-plots and flashbacks, they’ll have a lot more time for the action. “Action” was used four times in the preceding two sentences. Are we making our point clear about the need for more action on this show.
5. Manny Effing Coto. For those of you who don’t know, Manny Coto is one of the premiere producers and writers in television today and his particular forté is genre, specifically Action, Horror and Sci-Fi (check out Manny Coto’s bio at IMDb). Among those of us in the know (*snicker*), Coto really gained attention when he came into the third season of the miserable failure of a series, Star Trek: Enterprise and actually gave the show some respectability with the writing. In season four he was made showrunner/executive producer and changed the direction of the series entirely, allowing the series to end on a high-note. Season four of Star Trek: Enterprise is widely considered to be the best of the four seasons and that has everything to do with Manny Coto. And, yes, we expect to get hate mail from Trek fans about the “miserable failure of a show” remark.
After leaving Star Trek: Enterprise, Coto became an executive producer alongside Evan Katz for seasons five, six, seven and eight of 24. Without, a question, season five was the most critically acclaimed season of that series (winning the Prime-Time Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series) and it’s no surprise why, really.
Katz and Coto worked together for several years on a successful genre Action-Thriller and Coto has an excellent track record of bringing a new vision to a series to change its course. It would seem to be a perfect pick for Katz to hire his old colleague to come in and see if he can do something to change the direction of this struggling show with great potential to put more asses in the seats as the great Reggie Jackson would say.
Now, we don’t know what Manny’s schedule is like, and truthfully, the Manny Coto dream may just be wishful thinking, but season five of Dexter just finished airing two weeks ago and he was an executive producer and writer for that show and according to IMDb his plate looks pretty empty as of today. We simply can’t think of anyone else that would be better suited to change the direction of this series and potentially save it.
The truth is that the long hiatus (new episodes will not air until March 7, 2011) may be the final nail in the coffin for The Event, so this may be all be moot anyway, but we hope not. There are promising signs that NBC still has faith in the series, particularly that a week before the new episodes air, they are dedicating two hours on Monday February 28, 2011 to a “catch up ” episode (for more information, click here). Why that’s a such a promising sign is because it’s stealing a page out of the Lost playbook and goes back to the first recommendation we made, which is that you need to explain to the audience what’s going on until the show picks up steam and has a dedicated, solid following. Progress, indeed.
The Event is truly a bubble-show. In the end, we hope despite all of its problems, NBC rides with it for at least one more season. If not, meh. It’s just TV, after all.
You can get caught up with The Event and watch all ten episodes, right here.