You’ll like it if you already like: Lost, The 4400, The Event, V, Invasion…
Likely timeslot: Midseason. Sunday at 8 or 9 or Tuesday at 10.
Remember 2004 when ABC launched the same season Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy & Lost? 13 years later -gosh, we’re getting so old!- the alphabet network wants badly to recreate the magic with three pilots that are supposed to be in the same vein. While Bluegrass/Blood Red is written by Marc Cherry & Black’s Law is produced by Shonda Rhimes’ company, The Crossing is NOT coming from J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse sadly but from Jason Reed, a former Disney executive-turned-producer -it helps!- and Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie, who were behind MTV’s Scream and a handful of failed high-concept dramas like Surface or The Event. Sorry, but it doesn’t bode well for the project, though I can see why ABC is considering it may fill the gap left for Lost. As Disney Media Distribution put it in a recent presentation: “It’s a character-driven piece in a world we know and these are characters we can connect with. This is a show we are convinced international audiences will love“. It certainly does have an appeal but it’s too bad it’s not that great and revolutionary on paper…
Back in 2004 -what a year!- South Park released an episode about people from the future who travel back over 1000 years looking for work. It’s was a thinly veiled allegory for Mexican immigration, with the residents happy to hire the time immigrants to perform household tasks at cheap rates until their own jobs are taken away. Was it the inspiration? The creators will probably never say. In 2017, the topic of immigration is still huge around the world, between Donald Trump who wants to build a wall and refugees who drown in the mediterranean sea. The Crossing couldn’t be more timely. And that’s probably the most important reason why ABC ordered the pilot in the first place. And the most important reason why I’m a bit sad it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. The opening scene looks impressive and is kind of a shock: a hundred of people at least struggling, drowning deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, some of them swimming towards the light, towards life. And I’d say it stays good and gripping for about 30 pages. But then I got a little bit bored and I thought to myself that it looked exactly like the kind of high-concept series that automatically bombed sooner or later for the past decade. Except Lost.
I have two main concerns, even three: I don’t feel like the concept can sustain very long and we’re not given enough reasons to believe there’s a rich mythology behind; I’m not very keen on the characters’ initial portrayals, they sound cliché and bland; and I can’t imagine Steve Zahn & Sandrine Holt as the new Matthew Fox & Evangeline Lilly. I mean… This cast is one of the less attractive ABC assembled this year. I know Steve Zahn was one of the most sough-after actor of pilot season -dunno why- but Sandrine Holt seems to be a second thought, and all the others are unknown. Not sure they’re charismatic enough. I’d like to be proven wrong though. Not that they are asked a lot either. Zahn could add humor to his character that lacks it on paper. He plays a boy next door sheriff with a mysterious past, who has a child to take care of since his divorce. Holt is a federal customs agent who is all business. Heavily skeptical of the refugees’ story and the concept of time travel, she nonetheless is sympathetic enough to find the truth since she’s an immigrant herself. From the secondary characters, none really stand out at this point.
But let’s go back to the concept, which is ambitious when you’re pitching it but doesn’t seem to be that much once the dust settles. Time travel is not something that worked this year (Timeless, Time After Time and Making History are all flops at various degrees) and conspiracies are always hard to keep interesting for multiple seasons. They start big and they tend to get too complicated progressively until viewers lose interest and disappear. What’s interesting though, it’s that everything the refugees say about their journey and their past life -not much actually- isn’t illustrated with images. Meaning they could totally be lying to the authorities. We’re never quite sure they are good people, or if their intentions are good. It’s frustrating and confusing but the uncertainty gives a reason to stay a little bit longer. This plus the cliffhanger that does the job it’s asked for. In the end, you’re left with the feeling that you’ve already watched that show before. Maybe it was The 4400 or V or Invasion. Replace the word “refugees” with “aliens” and you get the picture.
The Crossing is not strong and ambitious enough to be granted the right to think of itself as a possible successor to Lost. It’s timely and entertaining, family-friendly and somewhat appealing, but it doesn’t look like a game-changer for ABC. More like an honest little show that will get lost in the ratings rather sooner than later and that will ultimately drown.