IIt’s good to be reminded sometimes how rare talent is and how difficult art of all kinds is. Why we reward it, why we’ve always revered it, even though it doesn’t fill our stomachs, warm us, or protect us. Why we have always been fascinated by storytellers around the fire and to this day we are attached to the painters, sculptors, potters, calligraphers and everyone else who can create something beautiful out of nothing, out of an indescribable alchemy between mind and hand.
See too much of this wisdom continuously, and you start taking it for granted. It loses the rarity it should always have and becomes commonplace instead of venerated. That’s why we should be glad that there is a drama like La Brea (Channel 5). This new miniseries kicks off with a fantastic premise in every way: what if a giant sinkhole opened up in Los Angeles, a bunch of people fell through, and down there was LA 10,000 years ago? And that’s it. This is your ticket to good things in this program. After that, it’s enormous, glorious, pedagogically bad.
To say the plot is by numbers is a slander of numbers. We start with two instantly annoying teenagers, Josh and Izzy Harris (played by Jack Martin and Zyra Gorecki) and their mother, Eve (Natalie Zea, who looks about three months older than them). They walk around town and talk about starting a new life after Dad has gone a little crazy.
Dogs start barking – a dead giveaway that some special effects are on the way. Sure enough – a sinkhole appears! The family business. You escape! But Josh stops to help a little girl who has fallen! The shithole gets him! Mom runs back! She falls in too! Izzy grabs her! The men in suits are licking their pens and checking boxes feverishly. Mom tells Izzy to let her go, that she loves her and – as she breaks free of her daughter’s grasp: “Run!” Tick, tick, tickety-tick! The pencils are carried to knobs before the credits roll!
We cut to a man outside of LA. He has a frown and pictures of Izzy, Josh and Eve on his phone. He is the father: Gavin (Eoin Macken), a pilot who has had visions of a strange, unidentifiable place since a plane crash three years ago. When he finds out about it, he goes in search of his family. Unfortunately, only Izzy and some fragments of the script remain. They rush towards each other and it’s fascinating. Turns out it’s possible to run unconvincingly. “They were right behind me!” She gasps, referring to the rest of the Harris family rather than a bevy of writers or coaches. “Then they were just gone! It was my fault!” God bless the solipsism of the teenager who can face and tend to an unfathomable sinkhole.
Then huge vulture-like birds start flying out of the hole, distracting everyone from things for a while. They look like Ray Harryhausen creations if Ray Harryhausen hadn’t been good.
Meanwhile, the people down in the sinkhole are acting just as badly with an equally pathetic script. Eve survived, along with one of everything else. Marybeth (Karina Logue) – a hostile cop with a secret sorrow! Ty (Chiké Okonkwo) – a sad shrink with a secret disease! Sam (Jon Seda) – a Navy SEAL turned doctor with a sadly useless daughter! Christian cult sisters Lilly and Veronica (Chloe de los Santos and Lily Santiago) with secrets and concerns at the Wazoo! Aussie stoner Scott (Rohan Mirchandaney) for slight relief!
People are walking around trying to get phone signals, saying remarkably obvious things like, “Get on the bus! In case the wolves come back!”
Ah yes. There are wolves. And later saber-toothed tigers, infected bites, runes, a hooded guardian and much, much less.
At the top, evil politicians gather with their own secrets that may have to do with a similar hole that opened in the Mojave Desert on the very day Gavin’s plane crashed. Izzy keeps saying, “I can’t believe they’re gone!” and I really hope she dies soon.
To put it bluntly, it’s appalling. I loved it and am here for as many episodes as the creators are willing to cobble together. My guess is that it’s not getting any better and that there’s every chance it’s going to get a lot worse. Here for it. La Brea!