REUNION: SEASON 1
1.1: 1986 - 1.2: 1987 - 1.3: 1988
Written by Jon Harmon Feldman
Directed by Jon Amiel
“Reunion” is not the kind of series that I typically watch, largely because of the kinds of predictable elements that are strewn throughout this pilot episode. A lot of the “twists” were easy enough to anticipate, and while they might eventually add up to an intriguing set of divergent paths, they don’t make for the most interesting introduction to these six characters. But that’s not what makes the series worth the time; the gimmick, in this case, sparks my interest.
Thursday nights are already really packed, so it takes something that promises a payoff to get on my viewing schedule. That typically means something unusual in the premise. Playing out a 20-year long mystery over the course of a season is a great idea, continuing along the same path that “24” and “Prison Break” have already trodden. The gimmick is the star of the show, at least in the beginning, and the question is whether or not the cast and writing staff can capitalize on it.
That’s where my concerns lie. A lot of the writing in this pilot was terrible. It wasn’t just a question of using predictable plot devices to get the story going. It was how blandly the whole thing progressed. There wasn’t much pop to the dialogue. A lot of the lines that were meant to be ironic or sarcastic fell absolutely flat, and I had the feeling that the cast had been directed to portray their characters as if they were starring in a “Best of the 80s” montage.
Some of the line deliveries were absolutely painful. Will stands out as a particularly bad example, because most of the time, I was cringing when he was trying to emote. But a lot of the scenes came across as “high school drama” quality, as if the cast wasn’t sure how exactly to pull it off. If this had been a completely green cast with little experience, it might have made more sense. But a lot of these actors are experienced; that’s why the lack of presence is so perplexing. For example, I love Alexa Davalos, so I was shocked to see how hesitantly she seemed to approach her character.
Speaking of Alexa, I was certain that she would catch my eye the most during this hour, so I was taken aback when that didn’t happen. Her character hasn’t grown on me yet, I guess. The one character that has gotten my attention is Carla. Both in the 1986 and 2005, Carla left me breathless. I’m not sure how I missed the gorgeous Chyler Leigh before this, but I’m very happy to get the chance to see her every week. She reminds me of the kind of girl I would have drooled after in high school (and for that matter, college, work, etc.)!
So from that perspective, using Carla as the link between past and present, as the most “normal”-seeming character among the six main cast members, does much to keep my attention. I’m hoping that the writing woes were due to the conflicting demands that always plague pilot episodes, made worse by the needs of the season’s arc structure. For now, I consider myself intrigued, but guardedly so.
Final Rating: 4/10
Written by Jon Harmon Feldman
Directed by Michael Katleman
After the first episode, which left me less than impressed, I was willing to see if the difference between the pilot and the actual series would be positive. After all, there’s usually a difference, because the pilot needs to cover a lot of exposition and character introduction. So I had some hope that the simplistic writing and stilted acting would repair themselves once the series actually got moving forward.
The gimmick remains the most interesting aspect of the series, because not much else has been offered. I noticed an incremental improvement in the writing, but there were still lines that the actors could barely pull off, because they were an unnatural as it gets. George Lucas writes better dialogue! I truly worry that this is a concept that will die because of poor execution.
The cast, for the most part, steps up to the plate and tries to make the whole thing work. Like the pilot episode, the most impressive member of the cast in this episode is Chyler Leigh. She pulls off the age difference rather well, and she looks hot in both eras. The rest of the cast hasn’t been able to showcase their talents in the same way, so perhaps they also have more to offer.
I still find Will to be the worst offender in terms of the bad acting. The writing has a lot to do with it, but I still feel like he’s auditioning for an Afterschool Special. It’s really quite bad. He has his fans, of course, who will deny it, but he can’t emote to save his life. Even the Tom Cruise clone (far less interesting this time around) shows more talent.
Among the writing woes: having teens less than a year out of high school, looking very young, getting served without question at bars. There are people I knew in college that were still being carded until they were 30! There’s no way Will and Craig would be getting served in 1987 at the age of 18. The sheer amount of alcohol freely available was a bit hard to believe. And did anyone else notice that Carla grabbed the murder weapon with her bare hand? Thanks for leaving your prints!
Speaking of Afterschool Specials, Sam’s story is beginning to get ridiculous. How much more is this young woman supposed to endure, all while trying to keep secrets? For that matter, how could Craig not know what happened between Sam and Will? They have it written all over their faces. Jenna was better at hiding her feelings (or lack thereof) for Aaron (who’s still trying to do his best Alan Ruck impression.)
Lest I allow my preference for arc-driven SF series get the best of me, I asked my wife if she’d like to watch this episode. It didn’t take her long to figure out what was going on. But like me, by the third act, she was not impressed. She saw a lot of the same flaws that I saw. The point is: the writing staff needs to get their act together soon and add some depth to the story. If they don’t, this just won’t be my first casualty of the new season, but it could very well be off the air against much stronger competition.
Final Rating: 4/10
This series will no longer be reviewed.
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