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La Brea: Pilot

"Maybe we're in an episode of Lost."

And that's it in a nutshell: La Brea wants to be Lost. But unfortunately, it feels a lot like Terra Nova.

The story begins in Los Angeles with Eve Harris (the wonderful Natalie Zea) taking her two teenagers, Josh and Izzy, to school. As they are stuck in traffic near the La Brea Tar Pits, an enormous honking sinkhole opens up. Eve, Josh, and a bunch of other people fall in, and are trapped in the land that time forgot where they are menaced by CGI wolves.

I always try to be positive, so let me start with the good stuff. It's a truly fun premise for a television show. The survivors banding together to fight for survival and camping out in an upside-down bus could be enjoyable if done well. Splitting the Harris family up so that there's a sinkhole plot and an above ground plot could work, too. Although Eve's estranged husband Gavin having visions of what was actually happening below made no sense, even though it connected both sides of the story.

But this show wants to be Lost so badly that I feel sorry for it. They introduced a very Lost-like slate of complicated characters – a kindly, take charge doctor à la Jack Shephard, a suicidal shrink with a gun, a nasty cop hoarding protein bars, a druggie with his very own Virgin Mary heroin stash, and of course, Eve Harris as a more law-abiding version of Kate Austen. And that only made me wonder what J.J. Abrams could have done with La Brea.

Because there were so, so many problems. A show like this needs to be marginally plausible. It made no sense that the cars got smashed up, but the people didn't. The huge plot reveals, like time travel, their geographical location, the government knowing what was going on, should have been teased out, not plunked in front of us immediately like a substandard meal. I simply couldn't stop my eyeballs from rolling.


Good writing and humor could save this mess, but frankly, it needed to be there up front. I did laugh a few times (particularly at the Wilshire street sign), but I don't think the humor was intentional. Honestly, this pilot could be used as a classroom demonstration on what not to do. It wasn't the worst pilot I've ever seen, but it's up there. I doubt this show will be around for long.

One final note. I'm a former Angelino and I've been to the La Brea Tar Pits, which might be the most depressing museum I've ever visited. If our heroes are trapped in the past in that same very location and in the time of saber-tooths and wolves, where's the tar?

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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

23 comments:

An Honest Fangirl said...

I wanted to like this. I really did. There are definitely some growing pains to work through, first.

Like you said, the Dad's visions make absolutely zero sense, and probably should have been cut from the plot. Honestly, I would have been more than happy to not have anything from Above Ground, but oh well. I think that I like the characters. I really enjoyed Eve (even as I kept thinking about Adam and Eve), and the maybe understated moment in which she explained how her not driving her daughter caused her to be in an accident. In the beginning, there's a conversation about how Eve doesn't have to drive them to school every day. I want to like both the Seal-turned-surgeon and the gun-toting shrink. Our anxious stoner grew on me a little by the end, even as I'm bracing myself for a love triangle between him, Josh, and the doctor's daughter.

Not loving the selfish, nasty cop, although I kinda liked how she was the one hoarding after explicitly telling everyone else to make sure that everything they gathered was shared for everyone.

But wow, the CGI is bad. Production value as a whole isn't great. And as much as I liked, or could like, some of the characters, there are far too many of them. I think that there was a gay couple introduced who we then never saw again? Although one of them is legitimately living my worst nightmare of being in a disaster with my glasses. The point is, there's just so many characters right now. (The aunt! All of the government people who obviously know more than they're saying! The quick shot of a caveman-looking guy who very obviously is going to be another modern human who fell here probably during the same event that caused Dad's accident and visions.)

At least with the cars being smashed, characters commented on it which makes me hope that that will be something explored in the future and not another wink and nod to the audience like the "Lost" comment. I was thinking of "Lost" though, once everyone gathered in that central area. All it did was make me want to rewatch the opening beach scene.

An Honest Fangirl said...

Oh, also I will give props to the casting of an actual amputee to play Izzy.

Billie Doux said...

Fangirl, much agreement. I absolutely wanted to love this show, but its flaws kept distracting me from the story and the characters.

I also wanted to give them props for casting an amputee.

milostanfield said...

It's a stink bomb. Don't watch everything on TV but I rarely see a show with bad writing AND bad acting AND bad CGI (those wolves!). The guy playing Gavin couldn't make it on a daytime soap.

Thought about hate watching this thing ala "Dome" or "Manifest", but at least those two had good acting. And the entire internet piled on "Dome", which made the whole thing fun. May watch "La Brea"in Autopsy Mode (picking apart the flaws) but I don't know if it's worth the bother.

Not much of a fall season so far. "Y: The Last Man" was another flop for me. Still holding out hope for "Foundation" though the first ep was a boring setup ep. Are you guys gonna cover either of those? So far only "American Rust" has me wanting more. Is this all just a Covid hiccup or is the "Golden Age" of TV coming to an end?

Billie Doux said...

milostanfield, none of our writers have expressed an interest in Y or Foundation yet, and I doubt anyone wants to continue with La Brea.

Personally, the shows I'm looking forward to are the reboot of Dexter in November and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds in 2022. I've committed to covering both of them. I'm also looking forward to Star Trek: Discovery and the sixth season of Outlander.

Patrick said...

I read in reviews about the Dad having visions and how it didn't make any sense. I would certainly agree that it's kind of cheesy, but not nonsensical. When he was interviewing with the Air Force officer early on about getting a job, it was brought up that his plane crashed in the desert three years prior, and that afterward he started seeing things. When those government agents showed up at the Big Hole, they compared the incident to a previous one in the Mojave Desert. Doesn't seem like a big leap to conclude that the Dad's plane crash was tied to that Previous Incident, and that he was left with some sort of lingering connection to whatever the phenomenon is that's causing it. The real problem is that given the quality of this first episode, I'm not very invested in finding out what actually happened to the Dad three years ago, or finding out what happens to anyone moving forward. Plus, the preview for the rest of the season that they played afterward seemed to suggest that the Dad was going down into the Big Hole on some kind of rescue mission. Where does that leave the daughter? Unless she sneaks onboard like Ian Malcom's kid in The Lost World, how much can she actually remain part of the story?

I'm with others. I wanted to like it....but. It's always great seeing Natalie Zea on my screen, I just wish she'd picked a better project. All I kept thinking when I watched was "We lost Debris for THIS?!?"

Patrick said...

Billie, I'm very much looking forward to Strange New Worlds as well. Anson Mount as Pike was fantastic in Season 2 of Discovery, and as much as I love long-form storytelling, it'll be nice to have a more classic Trek show in the mix again.

Samantha M. Quinn said...

Looks like November for almost everything I want to see next. I had some minor hopes for this one, but this was not a great start. Might stick around for a couple more episodes, but I doubt this will get a second season.

Next Up to try:

Day of the Dead (series)
The 4400
Star Trek: Prodigy
Dexter: New Blood
Cowboy Bebop
The Wheel of Time
Hawkeye
The Book of Boba Fett

Josie Kafka said...

This sounds awful! But your review made me laugh a few times, so totally worth it from my perspective.

(Seriously, they repeated the drugs in a Mary statue thing?!)

Josie Kafka said...

Also: yes, those tar pits are so depressing.

Billie Doux said...

Josie, I was just being sarcastic. The heroin wasn't in statues, but there was a ton of it in the trunk of a car. Unfortunately, it wasn't accompanied by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje or Dominic Monaghan.

An Honest Fangirl said...

Patrick - I guess when I say that Dad having visions made no sense, I meant from a larger perspective. They totally explained why he did in the episode, and I agree that his previous crash had to do with the same thing that the government spooks were talking about. I'm just more along the lines of: "why tho?" They could have very easily cut it and the show would have lost nothing. As it stands, it's just weird and not what I would expect from this set up.

Patrick said...

I can only assume Dad's visions will be expanded on as the season moves forward. But they definitely did a bad job establishing them, in fact I wonder if the pilot should've been 90 minutes instead of an hour, so they could flesh things out a bit. The whole thing felt rushed.

Frank said...

The new sci-fi series "Foundation" (from the Asimov books) is also sort of interesting and might be worth checking out for some. Great visuals (due to a ~$50million budget), some great bits, the jury's still out on how well it ties together. There's some odd jumps between eras/episodes...

Frank said...

Whoops, should've read all comments here before responding ;). I thought its first episode was very good, the third one was good, and the second one was just odd, in combination with episode 3.

milostanfield said...

Frank: I think "Foundation" might be good. The first ep was a bit hard for me, too much setup and pontificating, but the next two were quite good. Had to rejigger my expectations a bit. I usually latch onto the characters and watch them change and develop. Except for Laura Birn's wonderful robot(?)Demerzel that won't work for this show. It's better to take it as a long term historical drama, almost an anthology. The "Empires" being 3 ages of the same man is also interesting. Talk about self conflict!

milostanfield said...

Meant to apologize for going off topic here, but there's not much more to discuss with "La Brea". So sorry.

Billie Doux said...

milostanfield, no apologies necessary. If we're going off topic, there is clearly a reason. :)

magritte said...

I like the La Brea Tar Pits museum. Plus, they inspired a wonderful Far Side cartoon:

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/676525175251213098/

Billie Doux said...

magritte, lol. :) Thanks for sharing that one.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I just caught the latest episode. It... hasn't gotten better. At all, really. Cast is still way too big. Plot still happens for very clear and obviously writer-decided things than anything actually natural for the characters to do.

Very disappointing.

Billie Doux said...

Fangirl, thanks. I decided to leave episode two and any following on my DVR until I hear that the show miraculously got a lot better.

magritte said...

@Billie, glad the cartoon was more entertaining than the show apparently is. I had it at the ready because my sister watched the pilot episode with an equally negative reaction with the additional confusion that she wasn't familiar with the tar pits. So I sent her links to the cartoon along with a link to the wikipedia entry that explained the connection between central Los Angeles and pre-historic life.