The River (ABC) - Series Premiere: Synopsis and Review

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On Tuesday February 7th, ABC’s newest midseason replacement, ‘The River’, premiered. The series is created by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) and Michael R. Perry (Paranormal Activity 2) and there are eight episodes for season one. Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood, ‘Star Trek’), a successful documentary maker, disappears in the Amazon Jungle. After six months of searching, just as his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson, ‘The Crazies’) has accepted his father’s death, Emmet’s emergency beacon gives off a signal. Emmet’s wife and Lincoln’s mother Tess (Leslie Hope, ‘24’) has made a deal with Emmet’s former producer Clark (Paul Blackthorne, ‘The Dresden Files’). His company agrees to fund their expedition to find Emmet, if they allow him to make a documentary out of it. Under pressure of his mother, Lincoln accepts. Soon, however, they find that Emmet didn’t just disappear. There is something in the Amazon Jungle with them, something magical. Something Emmet set out to find.

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Peli’s and Perry’s influences are definitely noticeable for those who have seen the Paranormal Activity movies. The succes-formula that made Paranormal Activity a hit seems to work flawlessly in these jungle-settings. I was worried the documentary style filming would make the series hard to follow. After all, this worked in Paranormal Activity because the cameras were anchored to one point, but in jungle settings the cameramen would be walking around, even running. However, this isn’t a problem because of what seem to be very experienced cameramen and a few steady cameras in the expedition’s boat. They make sure that there is an actual visible supernatural being haunting the crew, and not just something we cannot see.

As with Paranormal Activity, a lot of the excitement comes from the things that happen without anyone seeing it. Naturally, the parts where there is running involved are just not as interesting with handheld camera’s. Thankfully, the expedition members aren’t cowardly people, so they usually face the weird stuff head on.

As for the weird/supernatural part of the show; it’s not bad. Personally I feel like they could have made more of it. However, I realize this is partially because the entire series feels a lot like a movie, and one would expect a movie to go into the supernatural occurrence more extensively. Though, it seems like this series will be one of those series that covers a new phenomenon every episode, with one major theme connecting the episodes. If they would have to go into minor details with every phenomenon they would have to dedicate multiple episodes to one event. It wouldn’t fit the story if the crew would stick around to find out what the supernatural things they encounter really are, and if they can do anything about it. After all, their priority lies with their search for Emmet.

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One thing I have a problem with is the ease with which everyone talks about private things in front of the cameras. This might be easy for Tess, seeing as how she has been making documentaries with Emmet for years, and perhaps also for Lincoln, seeing as how he grew up on camera, but there are more people on that boat who seemingly have no problems whatsoever with sharing their innermost feelings with the world. Furthermore, one would expect Lincoln to at least have some bad associations with this as well, seeing as how he feels like his father had more of an interest in his work than his son all these years.

Apart from this, the series seems to be quite promising. I’m really curious about the supernatural phenomena they will encounter next, and whether they will find Emmet in the end. I’m also eager to know how they will stretch the search out to cover multiple seasons.

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Comments 11 comments

jessramblings profile image

jessramblings 4 years ago from New Jersey

Another great review Robin! I can't wait to see this show because I love the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise and think the docu-style will suite it amazingly. It also has Joe Anderson, whom I love. Again, thanks for the review!


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

I think you will definitely love this series, Jess. They found the perfect balance between the 'Paranormal Activity' type of excitement and the key elements needed to form an interesting series. I hope you enjoy it!


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Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Joshua, I'm glad you enjoy my hubs! Thanks for reading and commenting!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

I have been looking forward to this series. I have been searching for a new show since Lost ended and nothing has measured up. I watched a few episodes of Once Upon a Time but it is so cheesy. I have high expectations for this series. Great hub! I will be watching tonight.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Thanks for reading, Tammy! I'm a big 'Lost' fan myself and as far as questions and vague references go; this show definitely qualifies as a 'Lost' follow-up! Personally, I love 'Once Upon a Time', but I can see how it can be cheesy. Enjoy the show tonight and let me know what you think of it!


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

great to have the run down on this one--voted up!


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Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Thank you very much for reading Robie2! I hope you enjoy my other hubs as well :)


Shane 4 years ago

I found the show to just be alright, I guess I was more expecting a Paranormal Activity type of experience.


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Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

The story does differ from 'Paranormal Activity', I agree with you on that point, Shane. However, I personally found the way they created excitement to be pretty much the same. Also; as with 'Paranormal Activity' they leave you in the dark as to what exactly causes these phenomena. But it certainly wasn't the same; it's less scary and more story-oriented.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

I watched this show and I must say WOW! The dolls really freaked me out. It is excellent. I will be watching again tonight.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Tammy, I'm glad you liked the show! I must say, those dolls... Wowh... That was definitely one of the creepier scenes!

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