A Brief Note on This Week’s Episode of The Event, “Face Off”

So in all likelihood, The Event (2010-11) will join Stargate Universe (2009-11) as yet another SF casualty this year, being canceled, like so many SF shows of late, before it got a chance to really even get going.[1] But this is not for a lack of sincerely trying to keep a fickle audience enthralled. The writers of The Event have explicitly commented upon the lessons they’ve learned from such shows as Lost—i.e. they will raise huge plot-point questions and answer them quickly, like in the same episode they were raised (of course leading to other questions, which will be also answered quickly). The Event, from what I’ve seen, is very much dedicated to not stringing its viewers along w/ dangling MacGuffins week after week in order to create suspense. And if this last week’s episode “Face Off” is any indication, they’re trying to do more than just that.

Unlike SGU right now, The Event is not poking along, exploring relatively unimportant character psychology and non-big-picture-type-side-plots, but rather hitting us over the head again and again w/ game-changing “events.” (Yes I will spoil them.) In this last week’s episode alone a major character died, hundreds of alien refugees were killed by the US government, the Washington Monument was destroyed, it was revealed that these aliens had been among and had been persecuted by humans for thousands of years, the alien presidential aid’s cover was blown, and the sexy femme-fatale’s past as a CIA operative was partially revealed. In other words, “Face Off” was the kind of episode we usually only get at the beginning and end of seasons: major things happening that radically effect everything. The writers of The Event are clearly attempting to draw attention to the show, stay relevant, and create weekly episodes that are not just serial little entries that may add one thing or another, but essentially don’t really advance the story very much (I’m looking at you Lost). To put it bluntly: they are trying to stay on the air. And their efforts have produced one of the best mid-season SF episodes in recent memory. This is why the show will be canceled.

For what is perhaps apparent, the Nielsen ratings don’t measure fan involvement w/ a show, they don’t measure a viewer’s annoyance over a plodding plot, nor do they measure when a show really hits on every single cylinder and produces something very rare: a midseason episode which was frankly brilliant just in terms of its televisual form (i.e. a lot of stuff happened). What they measure is the “average” viewer who probably couldn’t care less what they’re watching so long as they’re staring at the television. The achievement of this last week’s episode of The Event then will most likely be a hollow one, for what they are attempting to do (not be Lost) will be “lost” on the average viewer (and really, Lost stayed on for six seasons b/c of its ridiculous plot lines). I hope I’m proven wrong, but if history is any guide—i.e. a show gets canceled when it’s starting to get really interesting, which takes time, something The Event is attempting to jump over, and just get straight to the interesting stuff—then The Event is about to get canceled w/ a huge ax. It just got too good too fast; and that the networks cannot abide for they cannot let any show be more interesting than the commercials which air alongside it.

[1] SGU is esp. sad b/c they canceled the show after this current season had been written (and filmed, I think), so I expect their plan on a five season run will leave viewers woefully unsatisfied when this season draws to a close.

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