Sunday, October 16, 2005

TV: Surface

I watched the first ten or so minutes of the pilot episode of Surface almost a month ago, and I haven't felt like watching the rest of it until today, which tells you how much those first ten minutes grabbed me. But I surprised myself by mostly enjoying the rest of the show. Maybe not so much that I would've become a devoted follower, but enough that I wish I had at least given myself the chance to watch the second episode.

This is the third of this season's aquatic-originating alien life form trilogy (following Threshold and Invasion), and it may actually be my favorite of the three. Invasion never had me at all, and Threshold squandered its wonderful cast. Surface had its rough spots, but it also had some promise. And it had a larger scale than the others were able to achieve.

In the first episode, we see a new sea-based lifeform popping up all over the planet (well, mostly near the U.S.). The separate stories irritated me at first -- it felt like the show was all over the place, with no coherence. But toward the end of the episode, there was an indication that the varying storylines were heading toward convergence, and by that time I was invested just enough to want to see the various characters meet one another.

Story #1 involves scientist Lake Bell (fresh from Boston Legal), her ex-husband, and their precocious whiner son. While in her deep-sea submergible craft Bell catches sight of an enormous creature rising from the depths. Story #2 involves the "evolutionary biologist" who comes to shut down her program and confiscate her research. He's already seen signs of this kind of creature in the Antarctic, where one put a gigantic bite mark into a nuclear sub. Story #3 involves some good ol' boys in Louisiana who go spear fishing off the coast. One of them spears a sea monster and gets dragged to the bottom of the ocean for his trouble. And story #4 involves the kid who finds a mess of strange eggs, and brings one home to hatch in his aquarium. Hatch it does, and now he's got his own pet sea monster.

See, it's all over the place! But the larger scope grants a feeling of epic proportions to the show that the other two sci-fi entries can't match. Both Threshold and Invasion are centralized on a small group of characters gathered in one place. Surface gives the impression that anything can happen anywhere.

The cast isn't as solid as that of Threshold, but they're effective enough to carry the material. And the action is well done, with some really excellent underwater sequences -- the spear fishing scene is especially thrilling and unsettling.

But here I am, four episodes into the season, and I've only watched the first. Do I want to jump back in with the fifth episode, airing tomorrow night? No, I don't think so. But would I have stuck with the show to the fifth episode anyway, if I had made a point of watching the second and third shows? My guess is: still no. There are some good elements to Surface, but not enough for it to make its way onto my permanent viewing schedule.

Of all the new shows this year, this may be the one I'm most curious to hear feedback on. Has anyone else stuck with the show? Did I make a mistake by not sticking with it, too?

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