Dr Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenword) is a world famous explorer and TV personality. For years he had presented a TV show where he explored the wonders of the world with his family, in his own nature/family reality show. However, when filming his latest TV series the production company loose contact with Dr. Cole, his crew and ship while he was exploring the Amazon basin for ‘magic’ on his personal ship ‘The Magus’.
Years later the tracking transponder of The Magus is activated and Tess Cole (Leslie Hope), Dr. Coles wife makes a deal with Dr. Cole’s ex-producer, Clark Quielty (Paul Blackthorne). The deal is simple, the TV company will fund the expedition; however, Lincoln Cole (Joe Anderson), Dr. Coles estranged son must go with her and allow the expedition to be filmed 24/7 and an all excess affair.
Lincoln eventually agrees for his mothers’ sake, and they are joined by Captain Kurt Brynilds (Thomas Kretschmann), a private security adviser/bodyguard from Germany, Emilo Valenzuela, Dr. Cole’s ex-ships mechanic, Jahel Valenzuela, Emilio’s daughter, Lena Landry (Eloise Mimford), daughter of Russ Landry, who was Dr. Cole’s cameraman who also disappeared with the rest of the crew and A.J. Poulain, the lead cameraman.
The Crew, led by Tess find ‘The Magus’ abandoned and in need of repair. Using all the film footage left on board to track the Crews progress in the uncharted area or the Amazon they then set off deeper into the Amazon to search for Dr. Cole and his missing crew to try and figure out what happened.
So far I have watched the first 4 episodes of The River, which I would describe as a paranormal/horror show. 8 episodes were produced for the first series; however, ABC declined in picking up a second series.
The Shows concept is simple, a wife is desperate to find her husband and make a mends for the past. A son reluctantly agreeing to support his mother to find his father he couldn’t really care less about. All the while supernatural occurrences shake the crew and with the social aspects of being trapped on a boat in the Amazon, with a bunch of people who for the main part don’t really care for one another leads to slow progress.
The filming of the show is interspersed with historical footage of Dr. Cole’s trip into the Amazon, ‘live’ footage being filmed by A.J. or the ships CCTV cameras and your standard Television filming. The in character filming is shown as both grainy, jumpy and often with heavy usage of filters. The style is typical of many paranormal/horror films of late, but it works well to create and bring the atmosphere to the small screen.
There are often scenes which truly make you jump and episode 2 in particular has some creepy moments when the crew have to camp in the Amazon under trees draped in hundreds of children’s dolls, which locals have placed on the trees to appease the spirit of a child who drowned there many years ago. These dolls often turn to face or stare at the crew when they are not looking, whilst luring the viewer in and leaving you to try and anticipate what will happen next.
Sadly what let The River down are the obvious one-dimensional characters. They do not appear to be evolving or developing in any meaningful or interesting way; Tess is clearly a woman looking for forgiveness from her missing husband, Lincoln is sorry for the way he treated his father, leaving him and his show years before, having originally blaming his farther for not being the best in the world. The other characters are just as opaque and offer nothing original or truly original.
Does the characters lack of depth mean this show was doomed to fail from the start? Well sadly the answer is yes. Given that today’s networks are all about immediate ratings, characters that do not grip you or that offer you no emotional attachment will hemorrhage viewers. The premise of the show was good and the creativity that was behind the project appear to be excellent, I believe that had the show been given time and good writing ability, the character’s could have been developed into something more and evolved beyond their initial one-dimensional forms to become people you honestly care about. The actual show beyond them was interesting to a point and kind of creepy in parts, if not a little clichéd.
I think given time, which every network is very reluctant to do these days, the show could have become something more. Unfortunately with the likes of American Gothic hitting the ground running with excellent production and writing, The River was only ever going to sink.
If you have chance to watch The River, I would say give it a go. After all it is only 8 episodes and you, like me, can imagine what you would have done different.