Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The New TV Show Review Challenge: Surface

NBC's Surface is one of at least three new shows that deal with aliens in some way (the other two are CBS's Threshold and ABC's Invasion). The premise for this show seems pretty simple at the outset. The show has sort of an old-fashioned feel that is some ways refreshing and in other ways limiting. Also, I have to wonder if, based on the first episode, if this show is trying to be too many different things for different people.

The show has three major storylines that all revolve around mysterious aquatic alien beings that live very deep in the ocean. The first storyline deals with a teen named Miles (Carter Jenkins) who has an encounter with one of the beings while he's out in the waterskiing with his friends. When they leave him for a while after he wipes out, he gets a scare out of seeing the mysterious creature. Later, he and a friend decide to return to the scene of the crime and possibly see it again. Instead, they see a large amount of weird-looking eggs and decide to take one. The egg hatches inside the family fish tank and suddenly, Miles has a little, electrically charged creature on his hands.

The next storyline deals with a marine biologist named Laura Daugherty (Lake Bell). She's a single mother and divorcee with one young son. Laura goes on her first deep sea exploration alone in a submersible. While she's down there, she sees a mysterious light and some very large creatures. All the electrical equipment in her sub is knocked out temporarily and when she finally returns to the surface, people around her question what she saw. However, someone at the Pentagon believed her...and she finds her workplace and research taken by the government under the watch of Dr. Aleksander Cirko (Rade Serbedzija).

The final storyline revolves around two brothers who decide to do some undersea fishing in the waters near an oil rig. The younger of the two brothers shoots one of the alien beings and gets dragged deep underwater and into a portal of some kind. The elder brother, Rich (Jay R. Ferguson) blames himself for the incident. No one will believe his claim of seeing the large creature take his brother away. When he sees a news report about "whale" remains showing up on a shore in the Carolinas, he decides to drive all the way there to find out more about the creature that took his brother.

Surface seems old-fashioned at times. It is relatively tame with little violence or shocking images/moments to be found. Given how some shows go out of their way to be edgy for edgy's sake, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The show has a comfortable, predictable feel to it. The teen's storyline felt a lot like something you'd find in a Saturday morning live-action adventure show, especially the scene when the boy is chasing after the newly hatched alien being. The storyline with the marine biologist seemed like it could've been a show by itself. I think a show about a single mother/marine biologist trying to juggle undersea research and family could've been quite interesting. The other storyline with the brother trying to get answers about what happened to his sibling seems sort of tacked on. Once he finds out that a mysterious alien being took his brother (and that his brother is very likely dead), what purpose will his character serve?

The combination of these storylines smacks of pandering to a variety of audiences. The creators want to hook women with a smart, strong female character who is also a mother. They want to hook kids/teens with a character they can relate to who is involved with the aliens. With the brotherly storyline, the creators want to get men who are receptive to the idea of a man wanting to help/find out what happened to his brother (FOX's Prison Break and The WB's Supernatural also both deal with brotherly relationships in some way). How long will this show keep up the trifecta of storylines? If and/or when all these storylines merge into one, what kind of show will this be? Will it remain somewhat "family friendly" or morph into a violent, edgy show?

I really don't know what to make of this show. It's not as terrible as it could've been, but it doesn't feel like it knows what it wants to be yet. Nothing in this show wowed or amazed me in any way. No performances stuck out, no dialogue caught my ear, no twists surprised me. The three storyline structure is the only thing that really distinguished this show and there is no clue how long that will last. If I had to affix some sort of rating on this show, I guess I'd say it was okay. I won't be going out of my way to watch it, but if it was the only thing on, I might not put in a DVD.

No comments:

Post a Comment