I tweeted something last week that keeps getting retweeted. It's not bragging if it's fact. What I tweeted was, "If #TheRiver had any character development AT ALL I might care that a monster is out to kill these folks. As it stands, I'm on Team Monster."
Anyway, the reason I'm pointing this out is because The River was on again last night (I didn't watch), but apparently a few people unearthed my tweet from the first episode. And one guy responded to me and chastised me for daring to suggest that a TV show have character development right from the get-go.
And then I got to thinking while walking home from the early morning school run: Is it asking too much if I expect a TV show to grip me with its characters during the pilot?
And my definitive answer is: Hell to the no, it isn't.
A good premise might drag you to a pilot. But if there's no one worth following once you get there, you won't stick around. Even procedurals need people. NCIS is one of the most successful shows on television and it's little more than a crime-of-the-week drama, but the people solving those crimes are real, flawed people with history. And they've had that history from the beginning. And if something bad were to happen to Tony or Gibbs, we'd be sad about it.
24 was an AMAZING premise and it's first season remains one of the best seasons of television of all time. And a big part of its success was due to the fact that we cared about Jack Bauer. We cared that he was trying to save his marriage and his family and we knew right from the start what was at stake for Jack. And we got to know his wife and daughter a little bit before they were put in harm's way.
My big problem with The River was that the show assumed we were there for the scares. They set up a little bit of backstory, but never really introduced the dad or the crew who went missing. So then the show had the uphill battle of trying to make me care about the fate of a group of characters about whom I knew nothing. And because I didn't have a character to root for, I spent the rest of the episode picking apart the shoddy sets and the cheap scares. The show lost me 20 minutes in.
In conclusion: LOST was only about the island to the people who didn't watch LOST, my friends.