On a sunny morning, the (relative) calm of a packed LA freeway is disturbed by a cracking of the sidewalk… and then a chasm, quickly becoming the biggest sink-hole ever recorded. Buildings start to topple, vehicles fall… and so do people.
Families are suddenly torn apart and separated, but as LA starts to assess what’s happened, it’s clear that there are more questions than answers. The government knows this isn’t a normal event on any level, but answers aren’t forthcoming. Gavin Harris, an Air Force pilot with PTSD has been experiencing strange visions since his discharge two years previously. Now back in LA, hoping to be closer to his estranged family, Gavin sees a new vision of Eve and son Josh, both lost in the disaster, seemingly alive but in a strange place. The investigators and even his own daughter Izzy initially don’t really believe it’s anything other than trauma.
But Gavin is right. Many of the people who fell into the sink-hole really are alive… but they’ve found themselves in an unknown world with bizarre threats and impossible creatures.
Can everyone who has been ‘lost’ be found in time?
The best and worst thing that can be said about new primetime NBC show La Brea is that it’s exactly what you expect in every single way. There are absolutely no surprises in a template show that is so utterly derivative that it could easily be a production that has been sat on the shelf for the best part of the last decade and now being broadcast with nary a tweak. Like a show designed by committee and with a list of predictable bullet-points that are ticked off one by one, the one good thing about the experience is that it’s similarity to LOST, even down to certain scenes, character-traits and swathes of dialogue, is at least pre-emptively acknowledged by one of its characters in what might pass for irony or just acute self-awareness.
The CGI of falling buildings in downtown Los Angeles (actually lensed in Australia) are passable for a tv budget, but once half the cast have been plunged through some kind of glowing portal, the prehistoric environment proves as sparse as original dialogue, it’s a park dressed by a production-design department that looks like they were furloughed mid-episode. Random wreckage is delicately scattered in no discernable or logical way (another LOST pilot throwback) and our survivors are quickly threatened by CGI wolves and a sabre-tooth tiger that are fine, but quite obviously created in post-production.
The cast are adequate – a mixture of slightly familiar names and other faces that look like additions from an identikit CW rolodex. Natalie Zea (The Unicorn, The Detour, Justified) is Eve, the resourceful woman and mother who has to navigate her new bizarre environment; Eoin Macken (Merlin, Nighflyers) is Eve’s estranged husband Gavin, with the script-designated visions that will bridge the divide; Newcomer Jack Martin plays their son Josh, who for the most part of the pilot is incapacitated; Karina Logue is Marybeth Hayes, the perpetually-frowning and rather suspect cop (in what feels like a clone of her recurring role in NCIS: Los Angeles). The Birth Of A Nation‘s Chiké Okonkwo plays the troubled, posisbly suicidal Ty Coleman – trying to generate something of a mystery. One notable performance is that of Zyra Gorecki, playing Eve’s daughter Izzy – a real-life amputee after losing a leg in a logging accident, she effortlessly moves through scenes both physically and emotionally with her on-screen father and though it’s grading on a curve, this could be the actor to watch.
What’s the big twist in this – despite the fact that the sink-hole clearly isn’t just a big natural hole but rather a fantastical portal? Spoiler – though it’s rather obvious, even from the promos – the ‘survivors’ appear to be in the prehistoric past of the same area. That revelation is scripted and shot as… ta-da… a huge surprise, but it’s sign-posted every step of the way – not least with the ‘extinct’ birds emerging from the sink-hole. The fact that Eve’s ring, lost in the past is found near a modern rock is not only incredibly fortuitous but also so mind-bogglingly stupid as a plot-point, even if this really is a time-travel outing (If you accidentally drop something, the chance of someone else finding and recognising it’s yours is unlikely enough, but add anywhere between 56 million to 11,700 years ago difference (and miles of top-soil that would have shifted) between lost-and-found… and it’s ridiculously contrived and almost insulting on so many levels.
There’s a possibility that the show will survive in the tar-pits of the modern network schedules – worse shows have survived on more than their merits – but on the strength of the pilot episode (and the subsequent peek at some scenes from the weeks to come), this has every indication of being a lazy, one-sentence pitch with no real blueprint in place to actually solve the central conceit and with a one-season-and-out life-span that will – like the people plummeting into the past – be left hanging by a thread.
- Production Design / FX8