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Hercules Says ABC’s
THE RIVER Lacks Depth!!

I am – Hercules!!

A “found footage” hourlong from Steven Spielberg (“Falling Skies,” “Terra Nova,” “Smash”) and some of the folks behind the exceedingly well-crafted found-footage “Paranormal Activity” movies, “The River” is a disappointment.

It follows an American family as it journeys along uncharted stretches of the Amazon to find its patriarch, one Emmett Cole (“Star Trek’s” Bruce Greenwood), a nature-show host who has mysteriously gone missing. Emmett’s worried wife is played by Leslie Hope, still memorable from her turn as Jack Bauer’s troubled wife on “24” a decade ago. Because this is a Spielberg family drama, there’s also a broody son, this time named Lincoln and played by “The Grey’s” Joe Anderson.

The parts of “The River” that work are the parts that most resemble the “Paranormal Activity” movies. As with the movie, the TV show does use its found-footage conceit to conjure some truly scary moments.

But when the characters start to talk to each other? “The River” just feels like one poorly written TV show. “The River” is swimming in bad dialogue and cliché characters and crammed full of conventional TV incident and fuzzy logic. Too much of it is maddeningly unconvincing.

Its first season runs eight hours and its regular time slot puts it against “New Girl,” “NCIS LA,” and “Biggest Loser.” I can’t imagine it catching on, but I’ve been wrong before.

HuffPost TV says:

... isn't terrible, and it actually has some effective elements, but it's fairly indicative of ABC's post-"Lost" flailing. … as I watched the first five episodes of the show, a point-counterpoint developed while writing things down in my notebook. I'd finish noting something I liked about the show, but then I'd have to jot down one of the more melodramatic contrivances that I'd sighed (or giggled) about. Almost everything I liked about this relatively unambitious scare-fest would be balanced out by something that struck me as predictable or a little goofy. …

HitFix says:

... I watched the pilot months ago, was impressed by the level of suspense maintained throughout, yet wondered how on earth it would work as an ongoing series. And having seen four additional hours since then (one of which will air after the pilot tomorrow night), I'm pleased to tell you that — for now, at least — it does work. …

The New York Times says:

... deadly serious and profoundly silly ... Through the two episodes being shown on Tuesday night, the mixture of “Lost” storytelling and “Paranormal” style is neither intriguing nor particularly scary, and it doesn’t help that there’s hardly a glimmer of humor. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

… Like many contemporary horror shows, it's a scrapbook of favorite bits clipped from earlier ones. Lines such as "It was no animal," "There's something you need to see" and "Hell, according to every map ever made this place doesn't even exist," are like familiar old friends whose banality you do not merely excuse but actively cherish. ...

The Chicago Sun-Times says:

... Billed as a thriller, the show tries hard to be terrifying and eerie in a “Paranormal Activity” kind of way. It ends up being hokey and, even worse, boring. ...

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

… it's a scary enough introduction ... The show's writers would be wise to pay as much attention to creating realistic and non-cliche characters and relationships as they do the show's scares. Because they don't, "The River" lacks the sophistication of "Lost" but its formula is more flexible than recent Fox addition "Alcatraz." …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

… Yes, it's scary, but it also has moments of stupidity, and while stupid may not entirely trump scary, it can certainly do a good job of undermining it. Fix the dialogue and give the characters more depth and we're in business.

The Boston Herald says:

... By the second time the same crew member had been dragged off into some marsh water, I was laughing. So much for scares. … The makers of the “River” deserve credit for spilling so much of their “X-Files” myth-ology from the start, but there’s not enough reason to book passage on this voyage of the bland. …

The Boston Globe says:

… Hope and Anderson try their best to convey the damage they suffered and the abiding love they carried for their husband and father. But Hope is saddled, at least at the beginning, with the hokey kind of “We have to find him!’’ urgency that can be difficult to sustain; and the British Anderson, playing an American, has a similar problem with his accent. [Paul] Blackthorne, however, is an unmitigated treat as the oily, manipulative producer. As he brays heartlessly about ratings and second seasons, you can practically see him twirling an imaginary mustache. It’s a cliche, but Blackthorne has a ball with it, and his character lays bare the connection between a literally bloodthirsty monster awaiting those seeking to exploit magic for glory and network television itself. …

USA Today says:

... If you're looking for depth or common sense, look away from The River, a lost-in-the-Amazon spook show that is, intellectually speaking, closer to Lost in Space than Lost. If, however, you're in the mood for a weekly dose of first-rate and practically gore-free frights — the kind that may give you nightmares, but won't turn your stomach or cause your children to ask you embarrassing American Horror-style questions about sexual perversions — this is the trip for you. ...

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... Executive produced by Oren Peli (the Paranormal Activity films) and Michael Green (Heroes, Smallville), River is one of those series that could partly fill the hole left by Lost because it’s scary, intriguing and clever. Maybe the writers don’t feel they can slow the pace and broaden the characters given the limited run, but the show would benefit from it. ...

Variety says:

… What emerges in the pilot is claustrophobic, tense, chaotic and a little scary, with Cole being shown saying he's "so close to the source" of something that might go well beyond mere science. A second hour also has its moments -- there's an especially creepy sequence involving dolls -- but it also illustrates how easily the shaky camera, ghostly spirits and unseen threats can begin growing tedious without belching out some genuine answers, soon. …

9 p.m. Tuesday. ABC.



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