My Trip Down “The River”

abc the river tv show series finale

Immediately compared to “LOST” even before the first episode had aired, “The River” will finally come to a conclusion next week. And I mean that seriously, the show has yet to be picked up for a 2nd season and, based on the ratings it’s been getting, I think it’s safe to say that 8 episodes is all we’re ever going to get. And I’m actually a little disappointed that I’m never going to see more. I feel like all shows deserve at least a few episodes into a 2nd season to showcase what the show can actually be. Think about it. The whole first season of “The River” was shot before the first episode even aired, so any complaints that people had or tricks/techniques the crew might have learned could never be put to use in a push to improve the show, it’s just over. Don’t get me wrong, I have my gripes with it, but I feel like a lot of shows have mediocre, or just plain bad, first seasons. Look at “The Office”, for instance. Can you honestly tell me that you enjoyed the first season of that show? It was borderline terrible and I had no expectations for the 2nd season. But guess what, it got renewed and went on to be amazing for the next 3 seasons [or so]. Granted it’s taken a nose dive since Steve Carrell left, but I think everyone kind of knew that was going to happen. Either way, it’s a great example that a show with a terrible 1st season can turn into something amazing if given the chance. And I truly think “The River” deserves at least a half-order of a second season just to see what they can do with it.

If you haven’t heard of “The River”, it’s a TV show on ABC that was created by Oren Peli, the guy who created “Paranormal Activity” and produced by Steven Spielberg. It follows a group of people as they had down into South America to track down Emmet Cole, the host of “Undiscovered Country” (a wildlife show), who went missing six months prior. The signal on his homing beacon was recently activated leading his family and friends to believe he was alive so they set out on a rescue mission to find him. Upon finding the beacon, and not Emmet, they discover that there is a lot more happening in the jungle than anyone knew. The main theme of the show revolves around magic and spirits. It seems like every episode has something magical about it as they delve deeper and deeper into the jungle. And this is why people made the connection to “LOST”. I will say that there are definitely some similarities; both take place in the jungle, there’s some sort of magical power holding them there, and there’s a smoke monster… Well, at least there was in the first episode of “The River”, but it’s not a re-occurring thing. And that’s how the show is, while there is the underlying plot line of finding Emmet Cole, each episode has it’s own beginning middle and end. It kind of reminds me of any cop-drama that’s on TV. Take “Fringe” for example, each episode has it’s own specific case that they are trying to solve, but each case brings them closer to the main goal of trying to figure out what is going on.

Aside from being similar to “LOST” and having the same outline as a cop-drama, “The River” is different in that it is shot like “Paranormal Activity”. There is a camera crew accompanying the rescue efforts in an attempt to film the greatest episode of “Undiscovered Country” while they look for the show’s host. This leads to a mix of shaky cam shots, well placed establishing cameras as well as security camera footage, all used to tell the story. While it may be overwhelming for some people, I don’t really notice it all that much anymore. I don’t know if that’s a good thing because it’s the whole gimmick to the show, but I like the idea of the third wall being knocked down, it makes me feel more a part of the story. I feel the same way about shows like “The Office” and “Parks & Recreation” even though they don’t make it as obvious that it’s supposed to be a camera crew, I still feel like that documentary-style of shooting a TV show brings me into it a little more. That’s not to say that this technique would work in ever circumstance, but in this instance I’m a fan.

So as you can tell, I actually do like the show and am genuinely pissed that it’s probably going to be coming to an end next week. I tend to get attached to shows that don’t end up doing well in the ratings and thus don’t make it past their first season. “The Event” was decent for a while, then took a turn for the worse and then got good again right as it came to an end. “Flash Forward” I just liked in general, and “Jericho” got canceled, but came back to wrap things up in a terrible, low-budget sort of way that still left me wanting more… and that’s what I want out of “The River”. I want the opportunity to make the decision for myself as to whether or not I continue to watch, I don’t want the studio to make it for me. Unfortunately that’s not how it works and they aren’t going to keep a show on the air just for a handful of people, but it’s wishful thinking. I will say that there were some things in the show that I don’t like in terms of how characters react to different situations. There’s a lot of magical/mystical things happening in the jungle and they always seem to know how to resolve them without really having knowledge of what they are dealing with. Or there just “happens” to be a video showing exactly how to overcome an obstacle, no matter what that may be. If you’re trying to make a show that’s shot in the first-person, thus supposed to be semi-realistic in the way people react, etc., then make the people react how they would actual react. I get that it’s a TV show and it needs to have actors acting in a way that moves the story along, but at least think about how those people would truly react in those situations. That’s probably my biggest gripe with the show, but that’s all we’re ever going to get to see since there likely will not be a 2nd season… too bad.

With that being said, am I the only one still watching this show? It certainly feels like it. Did anyone start watching it and then give up mid-season?