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Looking Back At THE EVƎNT

Ten years since it premiered on U.S. television, Rob McCarthy looks back at the single season sci-fi mystery series, The Event.

Ten years ago it seemed that every science fiction show debuting on US television was vying to be the next 'Lost'. The mystery/fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural/drama had been such a phenomenon and ratings success, even if critics fell out of love with it as the series went on. Lost reached a valuable advertising demographic U.S. networks were desperate to attract and when the series came to an end in the Spring of 2010 every television channel in America wanted to claim the Lost audience for themselves come the Fall, so you can almost picture the meeting between the creators of The Event (actually titled THE EVƎNT) and NBC:
"It's a show about a young dude whose girlfriend goes missing, which jumps into him hijacking a plane, which is flown by his would-be father-in-law, who is attempting to assassination the President, who's found out about aliens here on Earth, and the plane gets sucked into a wormhole, and people get ill from an infection....."

- Blank faces on all the NBC Executives -

"...and it's a bit Lost-ish."

"Ah! Perfect. Consider it green-lit."
The pilot episode of The Event was very strong and showed a great deal of promise. It had been the overwhelming success of 2010's Comic-Con that July when it had been shown to a small audience there, but even at this juncture some critics were warning that "the effort required to follow the story goes well beyond what most viewers might be willing to give". A lot of that effort came from the fact that segments of the story played out in different times, allowing it to jump between story lines whilst keeping the audience guessing just exactly what was happening.

Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) unwittingly becomes involved in a mysterious conspiracy after his girlfriend Leila (Sarah Roemer) is abducted while they are on a cruise ship. Meanwhile, the President (Blair Underwood) is making plans to shut down a top-secret detention center in Alaska and reveal a cover-up directly tied to its detainees and their mysterious leader, Sophia (Laura Innes), despite the objections of the Director of National Intelligence Blake Sterling (Željko Ivanek). Sean boards a plane and pleads with the pilot, Leila's father Michael (Scott Patterson), not to crash it into the President's press conference in Miami. As the plane approaches the press conference site, it flies into a vortex in mid-air and vanishes...

It was clever, complex, it was a little Lost-ish in it's storytelling and mystery - although The Event is perhaps more akin in areas to The 4400. Either way, it looked like it was going to be a must see series for fans of genre television who were prepared to "put in that effort" to find out what was 'the event'? Apparently not the plane disappearing, as we were promised that 'the event' would come much later. I have to say that after the pilot episode aired on September 20th 2010 I was hooked.

The trouble is, it seems that after the first episode no-one involved with the show really knew where the story was going. The Event, and this opening episode, came from a pilot script written in 2006 and so all the writers had planned out was this first episode. After that, with an entirely different team of writers working on developing the series and penning individual episodes they had to attempt to come up with a story to fit in with the pilot... or, as it often felt, force it in in places.

The Event continued to split its episodes between at least two separate story arcs, with flashbacks and flashforwards being utilised to add more information about the characters and situations in the show. And this is where things started to go wrong. After several weeks the massive and continuing info-dump was piling up, but meanwhile nothing was being answered or really happening. We knew the detention center housed aliens, we knew there were good and bad fractions - we were being told stuff, but we never really knew why. And after just a handful of episodes the why started to matter less and less.

The pacing began to go askew, as more time was given to the less interesting elements. Sean's story-lines tended to involve him following a new lead but then finding out nothing, and so much of it was pointless and unnecessary to the plot. Considering he was supposed to be the main character, he really was given most of the padding.

The Event became harder and harder to follow. Miss an episode and you wouldn't know what was going on. In it's attempt to be the new Lost, The Event had lost its plot in a mass of mystery, and so after 10 episodes NBC decided to put the show on hiatus.

This was the biggest mistake they could have ever made. When the show returned it was clear that the executives at NBC had forced the producers to attempt to simplify things. The multiple timelines were cut back, but the whole story-line still felt just too dragged out. I'm one of those people that once I've invested in a show I just have to stick with it - good or bad. This was not good, and at times it became painful to watch. I found myself relieved to discover The Event had been cancelled, yet still I stuck it out to the bitter end.

The Event lasted 22 episodes, leaving us on May 23rd 2011. The actual 'event' we were promised happened in the finale; it was the arrival of the alien's home planet. Really this had very little connection to the majority of what had been broadcast throughout the rest of the series. I'd argue that if this event had happened within those first 10 episodes maximum, and more favourably much sooner than that, then The Event might've stood a chance as a series if it had then reigned itself in and properly focused on the story it was trying to tell rather than a whole load of random macguffins.

Too many plot holes, too much unnecessary padding, and too complex, although wonderfully conceived and with a well written pilot, The Event sadly and progressively got worse with each new episode broadcast. It's a shame but if it has any legacy then The Event proved that lightning rarely strikes twice. Why try to be the next Lost when you could've been The Event?

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