The event is not the assassination plot. It is not the kidnapping or the disappearance. Nor is it the CIA cover-up or the terrorist attack. All of these take place over the course of the first hour of NBC’s highly promoted fall addition, “The Event,” yet none is the titular event.
And after watching the hour-long drama, I can honestly say that I still don’t know what “the event” is. While every rational part of my television addicted brain is yelling at me to get out now while I still can, I can’t help but feel compelled to watch more.
“I Haven’t Told You Everything,” the pilot episode, and the final line of the episode itself, is pretty much exactly how I felt at the end of the hour. I was revved up for something big, something mind-blowing and something completely original. And something did happen, but I certainly felt like writer and creator Nick Wauters was holding out on us — not telling the audience quite everything he should have.
The opening hour of the series is told in an interesting, backward format. As we are introduced to different characters, the show progresses into their pasts to show the key moments that brought them to the exact moment when the event begins.
For Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), the journey begins on a cruise with his girlfriend, Leila (Sarah Roemer), where he hopes to propose in the most romantic way possible. For President Martinez (Blair Underwood), the story begins with the discovery of a CIA cover-up of a prison in Alaska that even the President only gets to hear about on a “need-to-know basis.”
Scenes are shown multiple times in these progressions, allowing the audience to review a similar situation with new information. I found myself wondering if the episode would have played out just as successfully had it shown the story in a straightforward timeline as opposed to jumping around.
Regardless, these storylines rapidly progress along and converge with a plane that Sean boards. The episode ends in nearly the same place it began, with Sean on the plane desperately trying to stop something from happening. And then the episode ends.
What simultaneously pulls me into the drama and sets alarms off in my head, is that at the end of the episode, virtually no questions were answered and hundreds were asked.
What happened to Leila? How did Sean get caught in the middle of this mess? Who are the prisoners in Alaska and why is the government so nervous to release them? Who is the agent that tried to stop the flight from taking off? How on earth am I going to keep track of everything?
One thing stands out to me among all these questions. Each and every one asks about the characters: their histories, their relationships, their actions, etc. We, the ever-adoring audience, watch television to watch people. We watch these people, who are not so different from ourselves, but are thrown into situations that we could never encounter or imagine. It is the reactions and human experiences we care about.
This is where “Lost” succeeded and where “Flash Forward” failed. It’s why “Fringe” is a critical success and why “V” is not. Characters that make you care are essential to a show’s success, and that is what “The Event” will need to prove before it gets this television addict’s seal of approval.
I will, however, give “The Event” a chance to prove itself, if only because my curiosity has gotten the best of me. If the point of the pilot was to pique every audience member’s curiosities as they set up each storyline, then Wauters did a fine job. Seeing as the episode managed to scoop up high ratings, I would say the rest of the viewers agree.
They may have gotten me to agree to tune in next week, but my guard will be up. Hopefully the red herrings will desist and we will stop learning what “The Event” is not, and find out what it is.
“The Event” airs on NBC on Mondays at 9 p.m.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.