Updated 3/11/2014: News just in that Amazon has ordered this pilot to series, along with Bosch, Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle. As of this writing I’ve seen Mozart, and think it’s worth the effort because it’s about classical music and it will feature Gael Garcia Bernal (in his U.S. TV series debut), Malcolm McDowell and Lola Kirke (very cute sister of Girls co-star Jemima Kirke).
You know all that great TV you love – where some of it’s sci-fi and some of it has a superhero in it and some of it has a troubled dude in it and some weeks it’s all about the main story or sometimes it just goes off on some unrelated tangent?? Hmm, do you? Do you?!?
Well, you mostly have two dudes to thank for that kind of TV. Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse had a lot to do with it, but another guy pretty much invented it. His name is Chris Carter, and his little TV show was a giant blueprint called The X-Files. Nine seasons and two movies did it emit, like a black oil from the frozen tundra.
After its premier on FOX in 1993, and over that long run of 201 episodes, Carter’s sci-fi/supernatural, “mythology-based” series became a TV icon. And everything good that came after – Buffy, Smallville, Arrow, the rebooted Doctor Who, Revolution, Torchwood and – most importantly - Lost and The Walking Dead all owe Carter some residual checks.
After The X-Files closed up shop in 2002, with the exception of 2008’s second (and fully dreadful) X-Files movie I Want To Believe, Carter has been pretty absent from the big media world. Until earlier today – 2/6/2014. Though, Amazon should have waited until March 7th to release this. (I’ll explain later.)
Carter has written and directed The After, a pilot for Amazon Originals, which premiered today on the Prime streaming service. This is one of ten new pilots which Amazon streams, solicits viewer feedback, and then decides which of the test shows will go to series. Up to now, only Alpha House, a DC-based sit-com starring John Goodman, has gone through the process – during the previous year’s inaugural “Pilot Season” – and arrived on Amazon as a web series.
But Chris Carter’s The After arrives today, with all the key elements you expect from him.
First, what the hell is going on? And who are these eight disparate characters thrown together by fate? Were they thrown together by fate? Is larger force in play? Where did that missing day go? And, as we came to expect from Carter, once he reached the end of The X Files run, does even HE know the answer to any of these questions?!?
What is going on appears to be the end of the world, or at least Los Angeles, as the city loses all electrical power, communication, and – based on the aimless wandering of lots of extras – sense of direction. Eight people, or, more precisely, eight cardboard cutouts of characters, seem to be randomly thrown together in the middle of all this generic chaos. Led by wrongly-imprisoned prison escapee “D“, played by Leverage’s Aldus Hodge, these folk cleverly get out of downtown L.A., only to end up in a more dangerous series of events on a large Beverly Hills estate.
The other main character is Gigi, played by the lovely French actress Louise Monot (OSS 117: Lost in Rio and the upcoming Girl On A Bicycle). While the idea of a French lead actress on an American TV series is far from stereotypical, her actions as an actress and Mom stuck in L.A. while her family is in New York are full of by-the-book moxie.
The rest of the gang is rounded out by Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as an amoral L.A. lawyer, Arielle Kebbel (90210) as Pasdar’s boot-knockin’ honey of an employee with a working knowledge of the book of the Revelation and a fondness for badly timed skinny-dippin’, Andrew Howard as a drunk Irishman with anger issues, Jaina Lee Ortiz as a good Latina cop, Jamie Kennedy as a gay birthday clown (really), and Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue) as the little old diabetic lady from Beverly Hills. I swear to you, it’s like the crew of the Minnow just landed dead square onto the Apocalypse.
But, in all honesty, The After is fairly entertaining. The big problem is that Chris Carter is still running on a 1993 TV motherboard. And even though he invented that operating system, hundreds of capable writers have made cooler mods to it for twenty years. However, the silly twists are fun, and so is Carter’s complete joy at being free from normal TV restrictions. His overuse of the f*** bomb is happily juvenile. The importance of the aforementioned March 7th had me giggling out loud, as did the entire performance of ninth series regular Sam Littlefield (pictured).
The After ain’t The Walking Dead or Lost or even True Blood. But it is Chris Carter doing what he does best, including the dopey parts. Go peek at this Amazon Original and see for yourself.