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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

After THE AFTER

Article first published as After THE AFTER on TheTVKing.

Nearly a year after releasing its first batch of comedy pilots, Amazon.com finally posted two dramas free to stream on their website. One of these pilots is The After, which is from Chris Carter (The X-Files), a suspenseful series send after a post-apocalyptic event. Eight strangers, bound by fate, not coincidence, must come together to survive, fleeing from the rest of the world.

The X-Files was a seminal show for science fiction television, and some of the creepy mystery that seeped through that program is repeated here. There is a creature (Sam Littlefield) with weird tattoos in the woods, and no one can explain to our protagonists what is happening. Even after viewing the entire "Pilot," the long-term plot still seems murky.

But the mistake comes by making The After about a "random" group of strangers thrust together by circumstance. This concept has been done to death, and with much better ensembles. Those that make up the cast are mostly familiar faces, and none of them are bad actors. But neither is this the next Lost, and the layers that begin to peel away in the "Pilot" are predictable and formulaic.

Our central heroine is Gigi Generau (Louise Monot, The Avignon Prophecy), an aspiring actress with a thick French accent, currently stuck far away from her beloved (Jason Lewis, Sex and the City) and their child. She is joined by an 'innocent' ex-con (Aldis Hodge, Leverage), an asshole lawyer (Adrian Pasdar, Heroes), a likely prostitute (Arielle Kebbel, The Vampire Diaries), a gay clown (Jamie Kennedy, Ghost Whisperer), a senile millionaire (Sharon Lawrence, NYPD Blue), a foul-mouthed drunk (Andrew Howard, Hatfields & McCoys), and a cop (Jaina Lee Ortiz, The Shop).

This grouping is a lot like that assembled by broadcast network series with a similar format, such as The Nine and Lucky Seven. There isn't any single actor who stands out as amazing, and though they play their parts well enough, we're taught not to take the characters at face value, which makes it hard to trust any of the players. None of these other shows lasted, so why should The After?

What will set it apart from that category is the gratuitous nudity and frequent dropping of the F-bomb. But don't mistake The After as being HBO or Showtime level quality, as the writing is far less smart. There are some intriguing elements, to be sure, but it's not looking like the next must-see serial drama.

This is evidenced by the other people we see. While the cast is escaping from a parking garage to a mansion to the forest, the general public riots, tries to flip their vehicle, offers no assistance, even from law-enforcement, and tries to rob Lawrence's character's home with guns. The rest of the world's population is shown as a two-dimensional menace, with only the main players getting any development at all. This doesn't bode well for sustainability.

While I do have very mixed feelings on The After, enjoying it but not really respecting it, I probably will watch if it goes to series. After all, at least it's not another police procedural, and it's trying a few new things. Plus Carter's involvement gives me hope there are some bigger, well-thought out arcs that could be brought into the fold down the road. But as a "Pilot," it lacked authenticity and any real, lasting draw. Very disappointing, considering Amazon has only ordered two drama offerings versus eleven comedies so far.

The After is available now on Amazon.com.

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