Does “The Event” exhaust anybody else? Every week, the individual scenes are crafted specifically to avoid giving the audience any helpful information. After the second episode – where we learned about the aliens and what happened to the plane – we’ve been getting an increasingly elaborate shell game, one seemingly designed just to keep the audience riding high on a buzz of constant plot momentum. But when the plot keeps circling the same five or six things, it just gets tiring to have to cheer loudly as the juggler at the center of the show keeps all of the balls (and chainsaws and what have you) in the air. Put another way, I’m pretty sure I could skip all but the first five and last five minutes of “The Event” and not really miss anything (well, I could, if it wasn’t my job to keep up with it). Everything in between is a long, long journey to nowhere.
I think everything that's still irritating about "The Event" can be summed up in the last two episodes' cliffhangers. Last week, the episode ended with the shot of all of the passengers from the airplane lying dead in the middle of the desert. Somebody sure wants to cover up the story of what happened to that flight! This week, the episode ended with a shot of all of those passengers spontaneously waking up in a hangar somewhere. Somebody sure wants that story to get out there! It's not just that the show immediately reversed itself, which is annoying, or that the show got two cliffhangers out of the same basic plot point, which rankles, but that all of these things are simply happening, without any real sense of a greater context behind what's going on. This episode was the episode where "The Event" realized it had to be a TV series, not a miniseries.
"The Event" is the "Super Soul Hits of the '70s" of serialized TV dramas. You know what I'm talking about, right? Think about when you're in Target or Wal-Mart, and you're walking along, and you see one of those displays that's full of CDs that just collect the big hits of a particular genre in a particular decade or the top 10 hits of a certain year, the better to bring you back to a certain time and place. There's no real context for why these elements are together, other than sharing some pretty basic trappings, but there they all are, and if you liked enough of them in the past, maybe you'll pick them up (the producers of the CD hope), rather than just going to iTunes and buying the tracks you know you like.
"The Event" is kind of like this because basically every element in it is taken from an earlier, better show, probably one that the viewers watching it really, really liked. The second episode, "To Keep Us Safe," is probably a better episode than the pilot because it doesn't attempt to dance around truths the characters already know just to keep the audience in suspense, and it at least makes an effort to develop the characters a bit. But all of the answers and elements that are tossed the audience's way are the sorts of things that other shows have done already. When you've got a big, big plot reveal in your second episode -- like, let's say, the identity of your particular science-fiction MacGuffin -- it might behoove you to come up with something that everyone who watched your first episode didn't guess as soon as that episode ended.
“To be quite honest, I just figured, ‘Here we go with another big project that a bunch of movie stars are going to inhabit. Why bother?’ ” the 52-year-old actor said during a recent phone interview.
Best known as Luke Danes, the always irritable diner owner — with the backwards baseball cap — on “Gilmore Girls,” Patterson said the role seemed like a longshot. But he bothered, nonetheless. And it worked.
Last week, 11.2 million viewers watched Patterson take on the gig as Michael Buchanan, the affable, Marlboro Man type who is devoted to his wife and two daughters.
Then things got twisted.
At the end of the first episode, he finds himself piloting a plane headed for the president after his daughter Leila (Sarah Roemer) goes missing. On the same plane is Leila's boyfriend, Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), who tries frantically to stop him before the plane mysteriously disappears mid-air.
“I would say few people have ever been thrown into circumstances that Michael Buchanan finds himself in,” Patterson said. “They’ve given me a lot to play with.”
And Patterson wants to assure viewers that they’ll soon find out what compelled Buchanan to take over the plane.
"Michael has a few secrets,” Patterson said. “The second episode is going to answer a lot of questions … and it will pose new and bigger questions.
The broadcast networks officially kicked off the fall television season, and although NBC, ABC and CBS can all find something to crow about, there won't be a lot of smiles at Fox.
While all eyes were focused on the new shows launching, including CBS' remake of "Hawaii Five-0" and NBC's big-budget drama "The Event," it was ABC's old reliable "Dancing with the Stars," which this season has contestants ranging from "Brady Bunch" mom Florence Henderson and ex-NFL great Kurt Warner to "Jersey Shore" sensation Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, that dominated the night. ABC averaged 17.7 million viewers, good enough for first place, and it also was on top in the 18-49 demographic that advertisers covet, followed by CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW.
Overall, about 47.4 million people tuned in to watch the premieres of five new television shows and new episodes of nine other series, according to Nielsen. That's a drop of about 5 million viewers or almost 10% from the first official night of last year's television season.
But the decrease in viewers can pretty much be squarely put on Fox, which saw its medical drama "House" return to relatively flat numbers compared with last season in the 8 p.m. hour and "Lone Star," the network's critically praised drama about a Texas con man, flame out at 9 p.m.. About 10.5 million people watched Monday's night's "House" and then more than 50% of them bailed out on "Lone Star," which averaged about 4 million viewers. Last year, a two-hour episode of "House" averaged over 17 million viewers.
Fox knew it would have hard sell with "Lone Star," and it was facing off against particularly tough competition from CBS -- which had a season premiere of its hit comedy "Two and a Half Men" followed by "Mike & Molly," a new romantic comedy -- and NBC, which was launching the heavily hyped "The Event."
"Lone Star," which stars James Wolk, David Keith and Jon Voight, received mostly favorable reviews, and there will no doubt be second guessing within the industry over whether Fox might have been better off premiering the show a few weeks into the season, after some of the competition had already launched their shows. However, Fox is challenged somewhat in its fall scheduling strategies because it carries postseason baseball in October, which eats up a chunk of nights. The network will scrutinize Nielsen's numbers on digital video recordings of the show in hopes that there is an audience that was curious about "Lone Star" but wanted to watch it on their schedule.
CBS' big event for Monday night was its new take on "Hawaii Five-0." The show, which replaced "CSI Miami" in the 10 p.m. slot, averaged 13.8 million viewers, making it the most watched new show for the night. The performance was only 3% off from what David Caruso and his gang did last year in their season premiere. "Mike & Molly" also got off to decent start, with 12.3 million viewers. Although that was a drop of 15% from its lead-in of "Two and a Half Men," it was only 5% off from what "The Big Bang Theory" averaged in its season premiere in the same 9:30 p.m. slot a year ago. This season, CBS has moved "The Big Bang Theory" to Thursday night.
NBC, which is trying to recover from last year's disaster of a television season, can take some encouragement from the performance of "The Event." The program, a serial about a plot that affects everyone in the country and outer space, stars Jason Ritter and Blair Underwood and is NBC's big bet for the fall. It averaged 11.2 million viewers, which is not a spectacular number given the show's cost, but is much better than what the network did last year in the same time period. More important, the audience for "The Event" grew in the second half-hour, which is a good sign. The real test, though, for a big-budget premiere like "The Event" is how many people stick around after the second episode, which won't have the same special effects.
Another factor in Monday night's numbers will be the performance of "Monday Night Football," which featured a nail-biter between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, that went down to the final play when the Saints kicked a winning field goal. UPDATED: Indeed, about 15.1 million people watched the game on ESPN, making it the second most-watched show of the night after "Dancing with the Stars."
HBO, which on Sunday night premiered its expensive new series, "Boardwalk Empire," about Atlantic City corruption in the age of Prohibition, said it was renewing the show for a second season. The premiere averaged 4.8 million viewers in the Sunday 9 p.m. hour. It was HBO's best series premiere since "Deadwood," which had the benefit of a "Sopranos" lead-in when it made its debut in 2004.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: A scene from CBS' "Hawaii Five-O." Credit: Mario Perez /CBS
"The Event" is exciting, no doubt. It's like an hour consisting entirely of "Lost" cliffhangers. You know the ones. The camera would zoom in on Matthew Fox looking grim, and then someone would say, "The Island is a giant bomb!" or something, and the music would go, "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH," and everybody would FREAK OUT. Until next week, when they found out that the Island wasn't a giant bomb.
The thing about "Lost" cliffhangers, though, is that they kept the audience tuned in and mostly not questioning the narrative. They also made everything seem like it was more exciting than it actually was, so when the show headed in for a ruminative, character-heavy final season, many fans felt like they'd bought into a sham. The answers many wanted weren't there, and the show just wasn't as exciting as it had been. The thrill was gone.
So when I say that "The Event" is made up entirely of "Lost" cliffhangers, I mean it as both a compliment and a criticism. Everything in the pilot is propulsive, leading up to a massively entertaining final sequence in which a fairly standard conspiracy thriller takes an abrupt left turn into science fiction. But it also means that everything that seems exciting is almost immediately undercut, that the show is constantly inverting and twisting itself to make things seem crazier than they actually are. Sean Walker (an enjoyable Jason Ritter) is our lead. No, he's a terrorist! No, he's actually a good guy! No, he's sort of a bad guy! No, he's just a man who's gotten in over his head because the love of his life disappeared! "The Event" sets an almost impossible task for itself in an episode with this many reversals: It's going to have to keep this pace up for years to come. And that's all but impossible.