Tuesday, February 14, 2012

‘The River’ Could End Up Being Great Serial Fun




ABC’s newest mid-season serial drama The River could manage to entertain audiences who long for a nice season long story arc. The show takes place on a magical river somewhere in the Amazon. The characters in the show travel by boat in search for a lost adventurer who is sort of like an American version of Jacques Cousteau named Dr. Emmet Cole. In the pilot episode Dr. Cole’s son and wife (accompanied by a film crew of course) head out on a journey to find the lost explorer but end up finding magic. This sounds idiotic on many levels as a premise for a television series, at least one that could entertain most avid television viewers, but the lost footage style that the show is filmed in along with the new mystery of the week structure of the series creates a nice precedent.

Sure a lot of films are made these days in the “lost footage” style and other than a few exceptions such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity films in this style are often quite shitty. It has been a while since this style has been employed for a television series, especially one that is of the mysterious persuasion. The very short lived series called FreakyLinks comes to mind when talking about The River. It too was a show shot with handheld cameras and revolved around a team of investigators who looked into freaky incidents. It failed miserably and was canceled very soon after it premiered back in 2000. FreakyLinks wasn’t a very good show and from what we saw in the first two episodes of The River neither is it. But the saving grace of The River may be in the structure of the series and not in the quality of the acting or originality of the stories. You see, it looks like in every episode the crew of the Magus will encounter some supernatural force to overcome, either by solving some riddle or burning some bones or some bullshit like that, in a new way in each episode. That sounds a lot like the CW’s Supernatural and people like that show and its format. So when you combine a successful format like the one used in Supernatural along with a very trendy filming style like that of Paranormal Activity you get The River which will most likely not be as good as either.

But who knows, the crew of the Magus might bring its viewers lots of joy, even if the joy is derived from making purposely mean comparisons between this show and say… Sy-Fy’s Destination Truth which often takes its adventurers on boat trips looking for magical creatures and mythical beasts only spoken about in whispers and hush tones. The name of the boat in The River is the Magus which for those less scholarly is Latin for, you guessed it Magical but potential viewers of the show should concern themselves with another Latin word to describe this show hospitalitatem, which it just might turn out to be. (What does that word mean, that’s a mystery). 

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