Lost was such a phenomenon that it only makes sense it would influence TV shows to come. One newcomer that clearly pays homage to the show is NBC’s The Event.
The Event is a fast-paced thriller with science fiction elements. The pacing feels a lot like 24 at times, but the heart of the story rests upon a speculative premise: the presence of extraterrestrials (some held captive by the U.S. government, others walking freely among the human populace) that look exactly like human beings and refuse to reveal their motives.
The Event most obviously resembles Lost in its nonlinear storytelling structure. Lost was famous for its flashbacks (then for its “flash-forwards” and “flash-sideways”), and The Event is utilizing flashbacks as well. Way more than Lost, in fact. Whereas the average Lost episode would jump back to one period in time, The Event can jump back a few days, a few months, or several years. Some reviewers have lamented this technique, rightfully denouncing it as confusing. Thankfully, the flashbacks have been toned down in more recent episodes.
While Lost used their flashbacks to add an enormous amount of depth to their characters, the flashbacks in The Event seem more plot driven. The characterization is better than in the short-lived science fiction drama Flash Forward, or the cartoonish remake of the alien-takeover show V. It’s easy to feel some sympathy for Sean Walker as he tries to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. The pain President Elias Martinez feels when making impossible decisions is palpable. But Lost didn’t just make us give a damn about its characters. It made us love them. The Event hasn’t done that yet, and it’s hard to see the show creating that kind of reaction in viewers anytime soon.
But Lost was so effective in so many ways, it’s hard to live up to. Certainly, shows like V and Flash Forward tried, but they were unsuccessful. The Event doesn’t come anywhere near living up to Lost, but it may be effective enough to ward off cancellation.
24 was another wildly successful show that The Event seems to imitate as well. The interaction between President Elias Martinez and his cabinet sometimes feels like watching President David Palmer interact with his staff. Both are highly idealistic presidents, seemingly devoid of any major character flaws. They stand up to their sadistic cabinet members and give in to extreme measures when they are an absolute last resort.
And when computer programmer Sean Walker tracks down his kidnapped girlfriend, Leila, he almost seems like a younger version of Jack Bauer prancing around on the screen. Although, it’s clear that, although surprisingly competent with rescue missions, Walker is nowhere near as much of a badass as Jack Bauer.
The final comparison is to ABC’s V.
V centers around humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial life . . . the “Visitors,” or “V’s,” for short. The V’s claim they’ve come to earth with altruistic intentions, to share their technology with humanity. But it’s established early on that their altruism is a ruse. The V’s, who are actually reptilian in appearance, cover themselves with artificial skin that makes them appear human, and they’ve infiltrated every aspect of human society long before their “arrival.” All of their supposedly good intentions are just the groundwork for far more treacherous intentions.
The aliens in The Event are not such black-and-white creatures. So far, we’re not really sure whether they’re good or bad guys . . . or, perhaps, a combination of both. We don’t know why they’ve really come to earth, and while we don’t know precisely why the V’s are actually here, we know it’s something along the lines of enslaving or annihilating humanity.
What’s really interesting is that both alien races are led by women. The V’s are under the command of Anna, and The Event‘s aliens are led by Sophia. While Anna is charming but clearly evil, Sophia is less charismatic, and a lot more cryptic, though she emphatically insists that she means humanity no harm. In fact, the only hint of harm is displayed by Sophia’s peer, Thomas.
While it may not be as original as Lost, as thrilling as 24, or as simple as V, The Event seems to have a story interesting enough to sustain it if the writers can begin to steer the show in its own direction. Imitation may have been what it took to get the ball rolling, but it’s originality that will keep the show breathing.