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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

ABC’s ‘Resurrection’ shows broadcast TV still dead on arrival

Our parents will invariably tell us that they love their children equally, but we’re old enough to know it’s a big fat lie. There’s always one child in the family who seems to glow with a golden aura of promise and success—he earns good grades, says his please and thank you’s and controls his peers with the bat of an eyelash. Meanwhile, the other kid is off doing God knows what and getting into all sorts of trouble in a desperate attempt to garner any form of residual attention. I tend to think of traditional broadcast television as the latter of the two, and I feel incredibly guilty treating it as something of an ugly stepchild while I continue to be charmed by the allure of its cable counterpart. It’s time to see what the little rascal has been up to during those many months of neglect.

I figured ABC was an adequate place to start because I know what it looks like when they get it right. In 2010, one of the most successful broadcast television series to date—ABC’s “Lost”—was cancelled. Since then all of the major broadcast networks have been competing to attract the attention of the franchise’s mega fan base. With the increasing popularity of cable and streaming technologies, this attention has never been more valuable.

It’s World War Three amongst broadcasters and fantasy/drama series seem to be the weapon of choice. Networks are pooling their resources and utilizing substantial marketing campaigns, promising us everything we love about the genre, like supernatural premises, cool special effects and J.J. Abrams! Many have tried, and even more have failed, to reach the success of “Lost” and there comes a point when not even the biggest of names can save a shell of a show—I’m talking to you, “Revolution.”

This month ABC premiered the show—its latest stab at the tried-and-true fantasy/drama—in which the inhabitants of Arcadia, Missouri are mystified as their loved ones begin to return from the dead. It’s an intriguing premise, but hey, wait a minute—this sounds incredibly familiar. Oh yes, because it is.

Last year, the Sundance Channel aired “Les Revenants” (“The Returned”), which maybe not-so-coincidentally features the exact same concept, only it isn’t in Arcadia but a picturesque mountain community in France where the story unfolds. The show was met with widespread critical success and I can only add to its praise. Not only did it master the concepts of atmosphere and mood, it posed compelling narrative questions and withheld just enough information to blanket the show with a sense of otherworldliness and mystery.

Those who find themselves aware of the circumstances and recognize certain striking resemblances will inevitably compare “Resurrection” to its antecedents, namely “Les Revenants.” So how does the American attempt stand in comparison? Not very well, unfortunately. Though it features virtually the same supernatural premise, “Resurrection” retains only a sliver of the atmosphere that its French brother was able to achieve.

The shortcomings are by no means the result of poor acting or shoddy craftsmanship. Stars Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher all make the most out of what they’re given. Rather, it seems as though the writers of “Resurrection” have overshot the delicate balance between answering narrative questions and giving the viewer time to ruminate over a good mystery, a difficult feat that both “Lost” and “Les Revenants” were able to master so well.

The season is only a few episodes in, however it has yet to demand my attention like that of its predecessors. Whether it has emerged out of certain restrictions placed upon broadcasters, a lack of creative showrunners or the network’s unwillingness to take a risk, I am continuously disappointed by broadcast TV. Until it is no longer content to borrow what’s already been accomplished, broadcast will remain in the shadow of cable.

Do you have a network show you love to hate? Send your rant over to Callie at ckollenbroic@wisc.edu.

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