Syfy’s three-night event series Ascension (9/8C) premieres tonight and continues through Wednesday. It’s the story of a generation ship that was launched in the early 1960s, taking a selection of humanity to a new home on a planet orbiting Proxima – because the ship’s creator/architect was convinced that the Cold War was about become hot and destroy the Earth.
It’s also the story of that man’s son, in the present, trying to preserve his father’s legacy. It’s also a serious mindbender of a concept – with one helluva twist.
Brian Van Holt, who plays the easy-going Bobby Cobb on Cougar Town, has been cast as Captain William Denninger, the commander of the starship Ascension. Denninger became captain by rising through the ranks – though it was his quick actions during a fire that nearly destroyed the ship early in its journey that proved he had leadership potential. He has a very public, if tortured marriage to Viondra (Tricia Helfer).
Ascension launches on Syfy in November – specific date to be determined – and will run through December.
Tonight’s episode of The Ex List [CBS, 9/8C] – Do You Love Me, Do You, Surfer… Boy” is the fourth of the show’s first [and quite possibly last] season and, despite several ingratiating performances [and a wide variety of ex-boyfriends], it isn’t a substantial improvement over the pilot.
Bella [Elizabeth Reaser] is following her plan to revisit her past boyfriends as per the fortune teller’s [Anne Bedian] prophecy that her soulmate is someone with whom she’s had a romantic relationship – and that if she hasn’t found him within a year, she’ll never marry. As a result, she’s encountering – in various unexpected ways – past boyfriends by the bucket load. This week it’s Shane [Brian Van Holt], a surf bum who has “grown up” to be famous and surprisingly business savvy.
The episode begins when the two meet cute and begin to see each other. We get a token look at Bella at work and there are arcs involving her engaged sister, Daphne [Rachel Boston], getting some photos done; her roommates, Augie [Adam Rothenberg] and Vivian [Alex Breckenridge] having some relationship problems [a showerhead and little to no imagination are involved], and Cyrus [Amir Talai] trying to scam a free board to teach a gorgeous woman to surf.
Although the subject of Bella’s quest is different, the pattern is pretty much beat for beat the same. The reconnect; they feel the generated chemistry; they learn how each changed over the years, and they fall apart just as things might be getting serious. The only difference here is that Shane has the potential to reappear in her life. Of the rest of the arcs, the only one that works is the showerhead one. Daphne might as well not have appeared in the ep, and Cyrus has gotten really old, really quickly.
In the pilot, written by series creator Diane Ruggerio, there were suggestions that we would see more of Bella’s life than just the fun parts and the ex-boyfriend parts. It seemed like we were going to get to see her at work as well as at play – and that her friends were going to actually be characters. The network, apparently, thought that the show should focus on just the play and romance and not the other [biggest] part of her life. The result is a show that entertains only sporadically, held aloft by the sheer charisma of Reaser and the characters of Augie and Vivian.
Given the potential in the pilot, this simply isn’t good enough. After invoking The Three-Ep rule, I was ready to stop watching, but CBS made a screener of the fourth ep available for review, so I asked for one. Sadly, it shows improvement only insofar as the ex of the week has the possibility of returning. In every other respect, The Ex List has not found the balance it needs to make it worth continued viewing.