Yes, the alien invasion series turned away viewers in droves but it deserved a better fate — and may get one on Syfy
When NBC launched its convoluted alien-invasion series “The Event” with a ton of hype last September, sci-fi fans and lovers of big-stakes serial thrillers were hoping that it might be the heir apparent to “Lost” or “24,” both of which had ended the previous spring.
Instead, after its promising pilot episode debuted with a bang — 10.9 million viewers tuned in to episode one, and it pulled a 3.6 rating in adults 18-49 — “The Event” spent much of the season jettisoning viewers, likely due to an unhealthy mix of obvious plot twists, insipid dialogue, unlikable characters and young female test subjects suffering from creepy “old face.”
The show’s failure as appointment television — last Monday's finale brought in just 4.9 million viewers and a 1.5 in 18-49 — was officially confirmed at NBC’s upfront in May when new entertainment president Bob Greenblatt never mentioned the series while discussing the network's 2011-12 roster of shows. Worse, guest performer Jimmy Fallon joked about “The Event" being a misnomer.
It’s true: “The Event” was no event. But neither was it as unwatchable as the ratings suggested. Still, the 4.9 million who tuned in to catch the cliffhanger that very well might have been the series' final episode may have invested 22 hours of viewing time without being rewarded with a satisfying resolution.
Aside from closure — and the Internet is abuzz with a report that Syfy may be making a play to try it as a miniseries — here are three reasons “The Event” deserved a second season, from a guy who dutifully sat through every episode.
1. It was getting better
One of the problems with "The Event" in the early going was that it was all over the place — too many nebulous characters to warm up to, too many plot lines to weed through, too many red herrings to groan about.
In its final weeks, however, after a slew of irksome characters were killed off — hasta la vista, Thomas! — the show's focus narrowed considerably and the real enemies became abundantly clear. Vice President Raymond Jarvis (played by the perfectly cast Bill Smitrovich) dropped the pretense of having any redeeming values in favor of being a total douche, and alien leader Sophia Maguire (Laura Innes) had finally embraced the love-to-hate-her persona she'd made her own on "ER" for more than a decade as humorless Dr. Kerry Weaver.
Most surprising of all was how even the characters we'd written off as being dull (Blair Underwood's formerly one-dimensional President Elias Martinez), indecipherable (Ian Anthony Dale's flip-flopping alien Simon Lee) or just plain awful (Sarah Roemer's always exasperated Leila Buchanan) had miraculously been infused with sympathetic qualities.
Theory: The event in the title refers to the moment, sometime in March or April, when viewers actually started to care whether the show's characters lived or died.
2. Zelijko Ivanek had become the true hero
Another early problem was that the show focused more on the trials and tribulations of Jason Ritter's character Sean Walker. Now, the son of TV legend John Ritter was a likeable enough actor to serve as the stand-in for viewers as a tech-stud thrust into a mind-bending conspiracy. But he wasn't quite skilled enough to hoist the burden initially placed on him of carrying a frenetic, big-stakes series in which he was asked to play cheerful geek, romantic lead and reluctant action star.
Down the stretch, however, Ivanek became the central character on "The Event," as his National Intelligence director Blake Sterling peeled back the many layers of the alien conspiracy and he fought the vice president's treachery from within the government. The shift was a solid decision, as the Emmy winning actor with the impossible-to-pronounce name was by far the best thing about the series from the very start — he was Laurence Olivier suffering the indignities of having to do summerstock.
3. "The Event" is better than the alternative
Sure, "The Event" didn't exactly set ratings records or generate much watercooler conversation. The same can be said of "Fringe," which Fox has left alone to build an loyal audience and has renewed for a fourth season, despite ratings in the same ballpark as "The Event."
Instead, NBC canceled the series and greenlit at least one series that is infinitely less promising than what "The Event" could have grown into if given a few minor tweaks. That series is "Grimm," a police procedural that improbably involves cases in which fairy tale characters come to life.
If Syfy does take a chance on "The Event," there are still problems inhererent to the series that would need to be addressed, of course. The drama unfolds a bit too slowly, for one thing. Some stand-alone episodes, a la "The X-Files," might be nice. But much of the refurbishing could be accomplished simply by introducing some new blood — a continual influx of characters and actors are partly why "Lost" and "24" stayed fresh through the years.
Charlie Sheen, anyone?