Did you guys watch The River last night? It is the new attempt to be the new Lost on ABC, created and directed by the guy who made Paranormal Activity. (For previous attempts to be the new Lost, see The Event.) The premise is that a fictional combination of Jacques Cousteau and the Crocodile Hunter had a much-beloved and long-running educational nature/adventure program but has recently gone missing in the Amazon and is now pronounced dead. But then the signal from his emergency distress beacon (how ’80s) has been picked up. The wife convinces her son that their father is still alive and they have to go looking for him, and the only way they can get the money to do so is from a reality TV crew that will only help them if they both go looking. (Supposedly the crew is actually the adventurer’s old crew, but then why are they so pushy and exploitative and weird and rude and completely devoid of compassion? They’re clearly a reality TV crew.) And so now the hunt begins and oh whoops here is a blonde girl and a pair of hispanics and a black cameraman who seems to be doing his best Idris Elba impersonation and also a British mercenary with suspicious motives because what would a horror-adventure series that rips off Lost so hard be without a British mercenary with suspicious motives? LET’S GET READY FOR MAGIC!
The show isn’t really the new Lost because I don’t remember Lost being so “horrific.” (“Horrific” is a synonym for “horrible,” right?) Sure people died on Lost and there were definitely creepy elements, but for the most part it felt more like an exciting mystery rather than “Paranormal Activity on a boat in the jungle.” That being said, The River did just straight up have a SMOKE MONSTER in it. And not, like, hey, that ghost that is black smoke seems similar to the smoke monster on Lost and more like oh OK that is just straight up the same smoke monster because ABC retained the rights to “smoke monsters.” I’ve also seen something that said that The River was very expensive to make, which is weird, because it did not look expensive. No offense, The River. I mean, they did have a whole boat and a ton of dolls, but otherwise it seemed how do you say, le cheap? Isn’t that the whole point of the Paranormal Activity aesthetic? Low budget chills. Although in the case of The River, the cheapness extends throughout the production. The dialog was cheap, if that’s even possible. “Dad was right, there is magic out there. So let’s go find it!” Come on, guys. Perhaps the most annoying thing about the show was its reliance on trumped up commercial bumper moments. Oh no! The lady is getting sucked into the river! Oh hold on we’re back from commercial and she’s fine now. Trick me once, shame on me. Trick me every 10 minutes for two hours, shame on me still, still me at this point. Needless to say, I had some other problems with the show, for example:
-The mom is way too adamant that her dead husband is alive in the face of plenty of real world opposition to that theory. She won’t let it go! And not in a passionate, hope against hope because I love him kind of way either, but in a mean, bossy, completely unsupported way. I know that we need to keep looking for Emmet Cole because that is what the show is about, but let’s breed even an ounce of human skepticism into this shrill woman.
-The producer and cameraman are way too unphased by everything. I know your job is to “get the shot” but there are fucking SMOKE GHOSTS flying around and SPIRITUAL INCANTATIONS and while I respect your courage in the face of these things to pick up the camera and chase the scoop, you are also allowed to be mildly put off and/or frightened by the things that are clearly terrifying around you.
-Do we really think that a girl who just had her leg bitten off by a smoke ghost should jump into the Amazon river? That shit is going to fall off now!
-How come the annoying son with annoying hair (who cuts his hair off in the next episode I think, thank God) is SO GOOD at solving the ancient riddles of ghosts so quickly? His mom gets taken by the river ghost and now he knows that he just has to exhume that body he accidentally tripped over before and place the body into the river and that will release his annoying mom from the spooky spirit world? I guess he played a lot of Maniac Mansion so he knows.
-“This door is welded shut from the outside. Let’s open it immediately based on zero information.”
-That is just too many dolls. There’s no way there were that many dolls.
-What kind of adult who is videotaping two children at play actually says “jeez, these two are going to get married one day” to himself? Those are children, you pervert. They play, that is what they do. And they are the only two children around because you dragged them into the middle of the jungle. So why don’t you relax and stop mapping out their sexual future?
At a certain point, when 100 ghosts have told you to get lost and you refuse to get lost, it becomes increasingly hard to care whether or not you get ghost murdered. You know? If anything that might work to this show’s benefit because it makes the horror less horrible. Go ahead, jungle! EAT THEM UP! Who cares? It also helps that everyone on this show is pretty annoying. There are only six episodes left this season, and 8 characters. Here’s to hoping the finale is just slow, silent panning shots of a peaceful jungle covered in stupid body parts and mystical dragonflies. Not that anyone will know. Because who on Earth would watch that far?