During the premiere of “La Brea,” one of the characters says, “Maybe we’re all in an episode of ‘Lost.’ ” It’s an appropriate comment because I felt like I was watching an episode of “Lost,” albeit a mediocre one, as the new NBC sci-fi series is basically a wannabe that never quite measures up to its idol.
As the show opens, Eve Harris (Natalie Zea) is stuck in downtown Los Angeles traffic taking her kids, Izzy (Zyra Gorecki) and Josh (Jack Martin), to school. Suddenly, a giant sinkhole opens up near the La Brea tarpits, swallowing a mass of people, cars and buildings. Izzy is able to get away, but Eve and Josh fall into the hole.
But Eve and Josh are not dead, as they find themselves in a strange primeval place with all the others who were swallowed. The survivors rally to gather food and supplies and battle wildlife, while trying to determine where they are.
Meanwhile, Gavin (Eoin Macken), Eve’s estranged husband and her children’s father, starts to realize the strange hallucinations he’s been having may actually hold the key to what’s happening. And when the government arrives on the scene, it becomes clear there is much more to the situation than meets the eye.
The pilot of “Lost” is an absolute classic with its iconic scene with Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) discovering the plane’s wreckage. “La Brea” actually tries to recreate that scene shot by shot, failing miserably. And Jon Seda’s Dr. Sam Velez might as well be named Jack Shephard, as he’s pretty much the same character. I know they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is just plain lazy and uninspired.
It also doesn’t help that for a show that claims to be about a separated family trying to find their way back to each other we have no emotional connection to the separated family. By creating the sinkhole in the first five minutes, we don’t have time to learn anything about the Harris family or get attached to any of them. So we don’t get all the feels we should when Eve forces Izzy to let her go so Izzy can escape. And we can’t feel sorry for Gavin having painful hallucinations, as they seemingly come out of nowhere with no context. I’m sure that the show plans flashbacks to fill in the blanks — just like “Lost” — but some kind of background in the first hour would have gone a long way. And some anticipation of the big sinkhole event we already knew was happening might have helped stir up a little more drama. The always brilliant Zea is phenomenal again here, but she doesn’t get enough help from her weak supporting cast to quite make it work.
If NBC was trying to make more “Lost” magic, I think it would have been better off sticking with “Manifest” instead of allowing this one to cause a possible sinkhole in its Tuesday night schedule.
“La Brea” premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, on NBC.