I had first heard about ABC’s new television show The River last summer at The San Diego Comic Con. Upon viewing the trailer, I got excited. It looked rather scary and besides some of the programming on the Premium channels, it’s been a while since there’s been a full on horror themed TV show on Network. And oooh it’s from Oren Peli! Oh, wait, that’s right. I hated the Paranormal Activity movies. But still, the trailer for the show looked very promising.
Well this was the week that The River finally premiered and sadly, I missed its original airing since my DVR already had the assignment of recording Justified and Southland (two of my must-see shows). However, ABC has both of the premiere episodes online so I took the time out of my day and sat through both.
First and foremost, I had high hopes for the show. Hell, FEARnet recently posted a review for the show and they liked it. I have been hearing about this being the scariest show ever to be on TV. But then again, they also referred to Paranormal Activity as the scariest thing since Poltergeist….so there’s that. Still, I put my reservations about being misled again by an advertising campaign aside, and gave the show a chance.
The River is about Dr. Emmet Cole’s disappearance and thusly the hunt lead by his wife Tess (Leslie Hope who played Teri Bauer on 24…and I hated her there too) deep into the Amazon to find him.That’s the simplest way I can put it. However, there’s also the fact that Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) is the host of The Undiscovered Country a very popular nature show (similar to The Crocodile Hunter) and he went missing in the middle of a seemingly haunted rivery jungle place. Included in this rag-tag crew is Lincoln (Joe Anderson), Dr. Cole’s jaded son who just wants to finish up Medical School, that girl Lena Landry (Eloise Mumford) who Lincoln will probably end up banging by Episode 6 and some shifty characters that make up the crew (I’m looking at you, Captain Kurt Brynildson). Wrap a ‘found footage’ colored bow around this supernatural mid-season replacement gift ABC has handed us and you’ve got The River.
There are definitely ingredients in here that make the show a promising endeavor, but something felt off. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, as I’ve been reading nothing but praise of the program everywhere. I finished Episode 1 and reluctantly went into Episode 2 thinking it was going to pick up. I was looking for ‘The Scariest TV Show Ever” and maybe that is the problem. Some of the jump scares worked, the found footage aspects of the show didn’t bother me, and I was even on board with the reveal of what the imitation smoke monster really was. I did find it a bit convenient that one of the characters on the crew happened to know exactly what the big bad was just 18 minutes into the first episode, but whatever. My main gripe is the same issue I had with the PA movies and that is the marketing campaign.
Two episodes in, and The River is already looking like ABC’s next attempt at filling the hole that Lost left by recasting The Smoke Monster into a role where he (is it a he?) can be bigger and badder. But if I’m right, can’t Networks just move forward and find the next idea out there that does not echo remnants of the brilliance Lost brought to TV? And if you think ABC isn’t trying to rekindle that Lost fire, compare the two photos in this article
And as I said, the ingredients were there but it felt like they were mixed into the recipe wrong. Creepy imagery (a doll tree, crazy monkey in a mask, creepy boat interior of The Magus) can only go so far, in my opinion. Much like my recent conclusion with Fox’s new show Alcatraz (again looking for the next Lost), it feels like The River is going through the motions without really having the writing at its core that’s smart and based in some sort of deep (non corny) justifiable truth that the characters can fully attach themselves to. But it’s horror, and most horror can end up being corny at some point, right?
We’re only up to Episode 2, so I’m fully aware it may be too early to place this judgement on the show. But I’m quite the impatient motherfucker.
With all this complaining, I suppose I should say that The River isn’t a bad show. Compared to most of the crap that is on Network TV, it still kept me entertained. However, to mark it as THE SCARIEST SHOW THAT SCARES TO EVER TO BE SCARY ON TV EVER IN A SCARY WAY…uh…ahem…. they should at least back it up with a bit more than the run of the mill elements that have made a lot of horror films tiring and predictable (can Oren Peli do something BESIDES found footage?). Maybe the people behind it (did I mention Stephen Spielberg is one of those people?) think that since it’s on TV, it’s okay to do this. And sure, I love the fact that more horror themed programming are gracing the face of television more-so these days, but can we please not treat the audience like morons?
Scariest Show On TV Ever?! Yeah, I’m sure I can name more than enough horror themed shows that may not just go for the scares like The River, but I won’t. What do I know anyway? I’ll probably watch the next episode and then the next one in hopes that The River will take some interesting turns. I doubt it, though.
Prove me wrong, ABC. Prove me wrong.