Reverie (NBC) pilot preview: a future success for Sarah Shahi… but in a virtual reality

Pilot “Apertus” written and produced  by Mickey Fisher (Extant, Mars). Executive produced by Brooklyn Weaver (Extant, The Number 23, Run All Night), Darryl Frank & Justin Falvey (Extant, Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Las Vegas, The Americans). For Universal Television & Amblin Television. 61 pages. Draft 01/22/2017.

Description: Mara Kint, a former detective turned professor specialized in human behavior, is brought in when the launch of an advanced virtual reality program called “Reverie”, designed by a young woman seen as “the next Einstein”, has dangerous and unintended consequences. “Reverie” puts people inside a waking dream of their own design, but some of them don’t ever want to come back, which put them into a coma and treathens their lives. Mara’s mission is to bring them back, one by one, before it’s too late…

With Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, Fairly Legal, Life, The L Word), Kathryn Morris (Cold Case, Pensacola), Jessica Lu (Awkward), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes, Lucky Man, Covert Affairs), Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Extant, Person of Interest, Minority Report, Falling Water

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10.

Reverie was one of those rare spec pilots that garnered interest from multiple networks and ultimately landed at NBC. Same thing happened with Mickey Fisher’s first project, Extant, that he wrote when he was an unknown writer, which sparked a bidding war before landing at CBS with a straight-to-series order with Halle Berry signing on to star. This is the proof miracles can happen… twice! I remember how much I loved Extant on paper and how much the show was a disappointment overall (and a snoozefest most of the time). So forgive me if I’m being cautious with this one. I can see why people loved it -and I liked it- but I can’t help being pessimistic for its future if it’s picked-up to series. Mainly because NBC (and other networks for instance) doesn’t have a good track-record with sci-fi and fantasy recently. Revolution, Timeless and Emerald City weren’t exactly earth-shattering.

In the meantime, Sarah Shahi was one of the most sought-after actresses of this pilot season and she ultimately chose Reverie. Which is not that surprising. She’s staying in her comfort zone. She apparently loves procedural shows -or she loves shows that can potentially air for multiple years, can’t blame her- and she’s best known for Person Of Interest, which was already a grounded thriller drama with sci-fi elements. Again, I get it. She loved the script, bla bla bla. And her character can be both badass and emotional. Mara is smart, she can kick ass if needed and of course she’s tortured because of a terrible thing that happened to her family in the past, a thing that she feels responsible for. It’s certainly appealing for an actress. But I feel like she may be doing a mistake (again). But not as huge as Nancy Drew for CBS last year, rest assured…

The concept of Reverie is cool -a procedural without a crime !- but narrow. Once Mara will have rescued ten or twelve people from their dreams, we’re gonna get bored. Inevitably. Even if the settings change in every dream (it’s a hotel in the pilot), as well as the characters involved and their personal story we’re told (a romantic one this time). So narrow I don’t see how it could last for long, except if they turn it into a more serialized show at some point. Like Person of Interest did in fact. There’s the potential to do so, especially with the puzzling creator of the virtual reality program and the mysterious private company behind. But will they be able to get there?

Reverie is exactly the type of show that is stuck between two ambitions: being network-y, knowing exactly what it means in terms of pace and structure; and being more than that, looking towards what they’re doing on cable. But in the end, it’s too much for procedural lovers -and well, there’s no crime in there you know- and not enough for HBO, Showtime or Netflix users. The premice could sound like a Black Mirror episode (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fisher was partly inspired by it actually) but turned into a basic procedural. Raising the standart of the procedural shows is a beautiful ambition to have and a brave thing to do. But it rarely pays off sadly.

Reverie is a modern and ambitious sci-fi thriller series, the kind that rarely works on network television, that also happens to be a procedural, which is a shame. It could easily land on Minority Report territory, unless it miraculously finds an audience as Person of Interest did. It’s a fine vehicle for Sarah Shahi, but it probably belongs to SyFy, not NBC. Except it would be too pricey. In another world or in a virtual reality, it would be a success. 

11 comments

  1. Lilian says:

    Hi, how you doing? I think this is the 2 or 3 time I read one of your pilots previews, so, I’m not very familiar with your style. Forgive me if I make some wrong assumptions here.

    Funny, but I’m actually happy with what I read here regarding the pilot’s script, and still very excited about this show! Allow me to explain: first, I think procedurals aren’t exactly bad or boring. Imho, problem is that crap like CSI (and it’s huge amount of variations) created a very lazy trend, that keeps going on (and on, and on, and on…) on TV. But, even some recent series like Major Crimes, Bones, Criminal Minds, or Castle were quite good for most of the time. It’s all about knowing what you wanna do, and keep developing your lead characters in an appealing way.

    The thing about Network TV, particularly NBC (or CBS): they pay pretty well, even when compared to cable, and it’s almost impossible to get them to air your non-procedural show. Bottom line: if you want their money, you have to go procedural… at least at first (that’s what Person of Interest did, btw).

    And, here is where I think Reverie has a brilliant concept: it can have multiple serialized arcs, and still fit in the procedural format NBC’s average audience loves. Reverie can easily have standalone Black Mirror inspired episodes, while developing an interest arc in the background. But, in order to be picked up, it has to please a test audience. And, that audience will most likely be composed by fans of procedurals. So, that’s basically how they have to play it.

    Also, I know the EPs so far don’t inspire that much confidence (although, I feel it’s unfair to judge Fisher based on Extant – CBS might have had a huge hand on why it’s execution was so bad), but, we know that a good writing team can make wonders with this concept. Let’s just hope they can assemble a great one!

    Lastly, and I might be overreacting here, but I think it’s a bit too harsh to say this is Shahi staying on her comfort zone. As a mother who stayed close to 7 years in a job I hated, because it payed my kids’ education and health needs, not only I understand her, but I relate as well. Sometimes in your life, you just happen to be in no position to take bigger risks. And, that just happens to be her case (she has 3 kids now).

    Well, that’s it. Sorry for the long post, and have a great day!

  2. laurie hirshlag says:

    no matter what show she is on … i’ll there ! she is the absolute love of my life ! always been and always will b ! I can’t wait !

  3. J says:

    I was so excited about this project cuz the description sounds real intriguing. After reading your review, I am worried about whether it will be picked up or not.
    How is the writing of the pilot tho? Is it well written?

  4. av says:

    The premise can be more easily likened to Person of Interest’s “6741”, where Sarah Shahi’s Shaw was trapped in a horrific simulated world, rather than Black Mirror’s “San Junipero”, which presented an optimistic virtual reality. Reverie therefore seems right up Sarah’s alley given her character’s arc in POI (and the critical acclaim for “6741” may have factored into her decision to accept this leading role).

    Based on your review though, Reverie’s concept does indeed sound limited. I’m a bit disappointed, but I’ll wait to see how it plays out if it’s picked up to series.

    • Lulla says:

      I didn’t stick with Person of Interest long enough to see this episode, but thanks for the information.
      About Black Mirror, I thought more of a mash up of elements from different episodes, more than one episode in particular. And certainly not San Junipero actually. More “Be Right Back” because the way they enter someone’s dream world is similar to the way they create “clones” in this episode.

        • Jel Writes says:

          I second that. “Person of Interest” Season 5, Episode 4, “6741” would have to be the best work I’ve seen Sarah Shahi do and she was fantastic in every “Person of Interest” scene she did, but for “6741” stood out. And I’ve seen most of the shows she’s starred in. I love an actress who can put so much into her character that I barely recognise where I’ve seen her before.This was the case with Sameen Shaw, her character on Person of Interest, it took me forever to figure out that it was “The L Word” where I’d first spotted her and even longer to link her to “Fairly Legal.” Amazing actress, one of my favourites. I think the only show I have not seen is “Life.” I should try to find it because I bet it is definitely worth a look. I am hoping like hell that this show is ordered to season, as I will watch it just to see this amazing actress. It is one show I will not get my hopes up about as the author is right, NBC have not had a great track record with their sci-fi genre. Case in point, Revolution, I have never watched it, but everything I read told me it had potential, and I am in the process of downloading the 2 season that did get to air. I was so disappointed it did not make it at least to a third season as I feel that show was worthy, creatively of a renewal. And again, this is based on what I’ve read from reviews, and critics. Sometimes it really irritates that hell out of me when the networks continually sacrifice excellent quality TV shows for the crap that we are seeing on networks today, Remake, after remake of CSI, NCIS, and more recently Criminal Minds. Regurgitated garbage, not an original thought in the scripts of many of these TV shows, “Macgyver” is a perfect example. They remake a thirty year old series and for now it is appealing to their demo, but that will change, CBS cannot hang on to their demo for very long, unless it’s Big Bang or NCIS. Hate CBS for cancelling “Person of Interest”, NBC would have been better off renewing POI for a sixth season. But in saying this, I do hope this show does do well, because it does sound interesting and I could watch Sarah Shahi act all day long.

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