LA BREA S1 E1 ‘Pilot’ – Worth a Look

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La Brea has all the hallmarks of the cruelest tv show species – the high concept network show that hooks me and gets cancelled after one season. The show is about a giant sinkhole that forms in the middle of LA at the La Brea Tar Pits and swallows a bunch of people. La Brea gives off a Lost meets Terra Nova (one of those great shows that got cancelled after one season) vibe.

The Harris family (complete with the commonly used ‘estranged dad’) is separated by the calamity. While they seem to be positioned as the main characters, the pilot introduces a wider cast. Half of the story follows the people who got sucked into the world and ended up somewhere mysterious and the balance shows the efforts of those left behind to figure out what happened. Some of the characters felt a bit forced (the police officer with questionable ethics, the good at everything take charge dad), but overall the show features a good cast playing interesting (and of course per the genre, somewhat mysterious) characters. Natalie Zea, who I recognized from The Following, Under the Dome, and The Shield, puts in a strong performance.

Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC

The real life La Brea Tar Pits are a fossil depository, which leads me to believe there will be a prehistoric bend to the show. The first episode has some creatures that seem a bit prehistoric, but nothing as obvious as a saber tooth tiger or mammoth. The creatures shown were seemingly chosen to leave some things a mystery to the characters as they figure out where they are.

The pilot has some excellent special effects. While the creatures are decent (great for network TV but not movie quality), the sinkhole disaster at the beginning was eye popping. Usually shows like this go all out for the pilot and then try to keep their budget down, so here’s hoping La Brea bucks that trend and keeps investing. If I’m right about the show involving prehistoric stuff (and the title seems to indicate it is), I’d really like to see some more creatures.

La Brea’s pilot has a lot of promise. It sets up a cool sci-fi concept, introduces a largely likable cast including the requisite ‘mysterious past’ characters, and hints at government conspiracy. When you throw in the possibility of prehistoric creatures, I’m in.I’m cautiously optimistic that the series will turn out to be an entertaining sci-fi show. I’m less optimistic NBC will display patience and renew it if the ratings aren’t good. Perhaps the best compliment I can give La Brea is, I’m willing to invest in the show knowing NBC is likely to pull the rug out from under me (I’m still mad about Debris and I’ve never gotten over Surface). If you liked Lost, Terra Nova, Flash Forward, Awake, or other similar high concept sci-fi mystery shows, odds are you will like La Brea. Everyone else can check out the pilot to see the sinkhole effects and see if the show seems worth investing in watching further.

La Brea‘s pilot episode will air on September 28th at 9pm in the US, with new episodes every Tuesday after that.


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