A boy wakes up in a rice field in rural China. He has no idea how he got there, but he manages to make it back home to the United States. There, he catches the attention of J. Martin Bellamy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Bellamy takes the boy back to his family in Arcadia, Missouri only to learn that the boy died 32 years ago.
All of this happens in the first ten minutes of Resurrection, the new show on ABC. Based on the promotional blitz for Resurrection, it would seem the network has a lot riding on it being a success. Commercials counting down the minutes to the premiere aired all throughout the newest episode of Once Upon A Time, to the point of becoming tiresome. So either ABC really believes that Resurrection is prime-time's second coming (see what I did there?) or they'll lose some big money if it fails.
We learn that the day Jacob died, his aunt drowned with him. Jacob's family is under the impression that he fell into the river first and his aunt tried to save him. However, Jacob's story sheds a different light on the situation, claiming that his aunt went into the river first, and it was he who tried to save her. He also says that someone else was at the river that day. This throws the family's beliefs into disarray, contradicting everything they've accept for the last three decades. And it's not an easy pill to swallow for them either; we see that it throws their family dynamic into turmoil and dredges up secrets from the past.
I watched the show because of the cast. Omar Epps, best know for his role as Foreman on House, plays Bellamy. He takes the first episode in stride, giving the mystery of the return of a dead boy as much straight-faced questioning as he can. He comes off as skeptical, unsure of what to make of his situation. Epps plays the role well enough but always seems to be a misplaced Foreman. His lack of emotion isn't uncharacteristic given Bellamy's detachment to the situation, but doesn't always seem natural.
Kurtwood Smith plays Henry Langston, Jacob's aged father. Smith manages to outshine Epps with his nuanced emotions; the sight of his dead son returning to him is borderline heart-wrenching. He's completely torn on the revelation; he wants this boy to be his son but his logical side knows that it's not possible. We get a scene of Henry revisiting a memory, a happier time with Jacob, and it overwhelms him. It's how we would expect a parent to react when confronted with the impossible as Henry is, and Smith is remarkable in the role.
My problem with Resurrection, and it's a big one, is what it's trying to accomplish. It seems that the show is tugging on the heartstrings of sentimentality. And though the circumstances surrounding Jacob's return are indeed mysterious, the cast points this out at every opportunity. My concern, though, is that once the mystery is solved, the show loses everything that makes it interesting. But by dragging it on for too long, it runs the risking of irritating its viewers who hunger for answers. So how does ABC make a show like this work?
Having such an open concept, Resurrection needs intriguing characters to keep viewers interested. From the first episode, however, I'm not seeing that this is the case. We get a bunch of people that we want to like, like the elderly couple that lost their son 32 years ago and chose to remain childless after that, but they really haven't shown me anything that would keep me interested. Also, take Bellamy; he was a cop that became an ICE agent. That's all we know about him. We can tell he's got a soft spot for kids and his wife/girlfriend recent left him, but other than that, he's pretty much a blank slate.
I'm not sure how well Resurrection would fare in the current climate of network television. It's got a strong enough premise to do pretty well, and may manage to capture the hang-around Once Upon A Time viewers. But the main problem is that it's too philosophical, tackling a subject matter that would make too many people uncomfortable. Of course, ABC hasn't shied away from philosophical in the past, making Lost a runaway success for six years. OK, five years. If Resurrection manages to capture even a fraction of the magic that Lost generated in its first season, then there shouldn't be a problem. The bad news is, that doesn't seem to be the case from the pilot.