By Paula Hendrickson
A lot of new series have debuted in recent weeks, and they keep on coming. Last week, Resurrection premiered on ABC, Crisis started Sunday on NBC, and The CW’s new show, The 100, launches Wednesday, March 19.
All of these shows have strong casts, focused themes and a lot of buzz.
My personal favorite of these three is The 100. It’s a sci-fi story built around moral and ethical issues: Is it acceptable to send a group of 100 “expendable” teen-age prisoners as human guinea pigs to see if Earth is safe for habitation some 97 years after nuclear devastation? Even if they’re being exiled from an over-crowded space station, the Ark, running so desperately low on supplies that capital punishment is the norm? Once on the planet, will the kids run amok or forge their own society and laws? If they thrive, what happens when residents of the Ark begin to join them?
The lead, Eliza Taylor (as Clarke), is a newcomer, and some of the young stars are still new to the business. Among the familiar faces are Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Isaiah Washington (Grey’s Anatomy) as morally questionable leaders of the Ark.
ABC’s Resurrection also tackles some intriguing questions. What if someone you love returned from the dead many years later? Are they real? What happened to them? Where were they and how did they come back? Why are they back?
If those themes sound a little familiar, perhaps that’s because the series is based on Jason Mott’s novel, The Returned. Or maybe last fall you saw season one of the breakout 2012 French TV series The Returned (Les Revenants) on Sundance Channel. Despite similar titles, subject matter and bucolic small-town settings, the French series and Mott’s novel are not connected. Fans of the French series might see Resurrection as a pretender to the throne, but it’s still worth following a while to see where it goes.
Resurrection has a strong cast led by Omar Epps (House), Frances Fisher (Titanic, Touch) and Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show). And while its second-week ratings dipped a bit, it still won its timeslot for ABC.
Another series that might sound eerily familiar is NBC’s new show, Crisis. This hostage drama is set in Washington, D.C., and involves power players being asked to do unspeakable things to keep their families safe. Sounds like CBS’s ill-fated limited series Hostages, right?
There are similarities, but Crisis has a larger pool of hostages — all students of a prestigious high school — and therefore, a greater number of characters whose loyalty to both their families and their children is put into question. The show also reunites a pair of estranged sisters, played by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Hannibal) and Rachael Taylor (666 Park Avenue), a familial connection that will, it is hoped, be used to underscore the show’s main theme. Is family more important than national security? What lengths would you go to in order to keep your child safe?
Even if some of these stories sound like they’ve been done before, remember that Shakespeare borrowed a lot of his ideas from Plutarch’s Lives. There are few ideas that haven’t already been touched on many times throughout the ages. Putting a fresh spin on those ideas is what sets one story apart from the next.
• The 100 premieres Wednesday, March 19, at 8 p.m. Central on The CW
• Resurrection airs Sundays at 8 p.m. Central on ABC
• Crisis airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Central on NBC
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to email@example.com.
From the March 19-25, 2014, issue