ABC is hoping for big things from its upcoming midseason replacement The River - specifically, the network is hoping that the mystery/thriller will be able to recapture some of the magic of its other mystery/thriller Juggernaut, Lost. This correlation has been blatantly evident in the marketing for the show, which has heavily relied on playing up the mystery/horror angle of its premise, hoping to lure fans still looking for that next show to fill the hole Lost left behind with its (lackluster?) final bow. Of course, promising viewers a few chills and scares by slapping "From the director of 'Paranormal Activity'" into the show's tagline hasn't hurt, either.
But the question is: Will The River deliver the intrigue and thrills it's promising?
We won't know for sure until the show premieres this week - but to get a better sense of what to expect, check out the official trailer for The River below, followed by a detailed synopsis about the show's central plot:
Famed explorer Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) went looking for magic deep in the uncharted Amazon and never returned. The shocking truth about his disappearance is out there, somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. To the millions of kids who grew up watching his nature show, Dr. Cole was a hero. To his own son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson), he was more of an enigma. Now, six months after he vanished, Lincoln is finally ready to bury the past when Dr. Cole's emergency beacon suddenly goes off. At the urging of his mother, Tess (Leslie Hope), Lincoln reluctantly joins her on a search for his father. To fund the rescue, they agree to let Dr. Cole's cagey ex-producer, Clark (Paul Blackthorne), film the mission documentary-style. The mixed crew of old friends and new acquaintances includes the sexy and resourceful Lena (Eloise Mumford), loyal mechanic Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) and lethal bodyguard Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann).
This show is attempting to do two very bold and/or risky things in order to distinguish itself:
- Trying to recreate the whole 'strangers in a strange land' premise of Lost, promising mystery and revelations that will be drawn out to string viewers along - but hopefully not so long as to frustrate them.
- Attempting to bring the faux-documentary / found-footage style of films like Paranormal Activity to the TV screen.
To be fair, shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation already use faux-documentary setups as the basis for their respective shows - but the realm of comedy is a much different one than that of drama or mystery. In a comedy show, the rules are - simply put - looser. The Office and Parks have been able to get by without being tripped up by their premises (such as why there is still a documentary being made after multiple seasons, who is filming, and how the camera crew captures certain scenes or moments) largely because the format is exploited for comedic effect (fourth wall breaks, etc.). So long as the viewer is laughing, he/she isn't caring so much about the authenticity of the format.
A mystery/drama like The River, on the other hand, is most likely going to be held strictly to its own rules and all the logical binds that go with it. How things get filmed, what things get filmed, who does the filming, do they run out of batteries eventually - these are going to be questions that hound this show. And unless the showrunners have the details all carefully plotted out in advanced, the technicalities could end up dragging this project down.
Finally, as this is a show about an expedition into some harsh terrain, it'll be interesting to see how much "shaky-cam" we have to endure. It's hard to imagine a stable camera rig making it out to the jungles of the Amazon - as it is difficult to imagine a lot of viewers hanging around long just catch a headache every week from trying to watch.
The River premieres on ABC Tuesday February 7, 2012 @ 9/8c
Source: Crave Online