Review: The Event 1×1

Better than FlashForward and hopefully more satisfying

The Event

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Channel 4. Starting in October

Remember Flash Forward (maybe you had a flashback as soon as I asked that)? Brace yourself, because here’s something that at first looks quite similar but hopefully won’t prove to be so frustrating.

The Event is a complex bit of weirdness. You can’t be sure exactly what The Event is. The entire pilot episode is told in multiple flashback. You know that a regular guy (Jason Ritter – The Class, Parenthood), taking his fiancée on a cruise, ends up hijacking a plane. You know that the President of the United States (Blair Underwood – LA Law, In Treatment) is going to shut down a weird facility in Alaska that does research on what seems like people. You know he’s going to call a press conference to announce something that the CIA et al don’t want him to.

But after that and the first episode, it’s all a mystery filled with a whole load of questions. And it’s surprisingly engrossing, even if you do have the feeling that just like with FlashForward you are going to be strung along for a while – but, fingers crossed, only for a while.

The Event
is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, “The Class”), an everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his would-be fiancée Leila (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history.   

Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including newly elected U.S. President Elias Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, “In Treatment”); Sophia Maguire (Emmy Award nominee Laura Innes, “ER”), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Leila’s shadowy father (Scott Patterson, “Gilmore Girls”). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind.

Ian Anthony Dale (“Daybreak”), Clifton Collins, Jr. (“Star Trek”), Taylor Cole (“The Violent Kind”), Lisa Vidal (“The Division”), Bill Smitrovich (“The Practice”), and Emmy winner Željko Ivanek (“Damages”) also star in the ensemble drama.

The Event is a production of Universal Media Studios and Steve Stark Productions. Evan Katz (“24”) serves as executive producer/showrunner; Steve Stark (“Medium,” “Facing Kate”) serves as executive producer; Jeffrey Reiner (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” “Trauma”) is director/executive producer; and Nick Wauters (“The 4400,” “Eureka”) is creator/co-executive producer.

Is it any good?
While the last couple of minutes leaves it pretty clear that we’re in primarily sci-fi territory rather than spy thriller territory and there are considerable numbers of daft moments, this was actually quite an interesting first episode.

The whole story leaps about from timeframe to timeframe, with things happening then a “32 minutes earlier” caption appearing onscreen and a flashback to explain what’s going on. Occasionally, we get a character caption (“President Elias Martinez”) to let us know we have a vaguely ensemble piece that’s going to have multiple story strands going on. In Heroes season one stylee, the events in one strand are shown in the background of other strands and continued. And over the course of the first episode a mystery – indeed many mysteries are set up. In fact, you’re not even sure how many mysteries there are. Skip ahead two paragraphs if you don’t want to be spoilt.

Before the end of the episode, we have the vague possibility (nothing confirmed yet), that the US government has been holding aliens prisoner in a secret Alaskan base, that the president’s decided to let them go and tell the world what’s up, that Jason Ritter’s girlfriend has been abducted and his father-in-law forced to fly a plane at the president’s press conference in an attempt to assassinate him because someone objects to that, that Ritter is hijacking the plane to try to stop him, that the aliens’ pals stop the plane from crashing and there’s a whole load of other mysteries that will need exploring, too. Like who’s dead and why the cruise liner messed up Ritter’s booking. And are those people whose lives he saved evil or just innocent bystanders? Or are those people lead by Laura Innes angels not aliens?

Who knows? That’s why we’re going to keep watching. The set-up, the writing and the mystery, while nothing that makes you think this is the kind of show that will go down in the annals of TV history in the same way that Lost did, are surprisingly complicated and well handled. Both Underwood and Ritter do well in their respective roles and you’re interested in their characters. The supporting cast, which includes the marvellous Željko Ivanek and Laura Innes, are suitably intriguing as well, although everyone bar the leads, by necessity at this stage, is very sketchily drawn.

It’s smart – not very smart – but enough to make you think that you’re going to be surprised and get to see some cool (but slightly poorly CGI-ed), action-packed things along the way. There’s also enough in the construction of the story to make you think that we’re going to be getting some answers soon – so if you’re having flashbacks to FlashForward again, don’t worry, I think we’re going to have a far more satisfying experience here.

It’s not going to be must-see TV, but it’s going to be among the top five new programmes of the season, I reckon, so give it a whirl and see if you like it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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