Wednesday, September 20, 2017

TV REVIEW: NBC's 'The Brave'

NBC will debut its new original drama series The Brave on Monday, September 25 at 10/9c. following the season premiere of The Voice. The drama stars Anne Heche, Mike Vogel, Demetrius Grosse, Noah Mills, Sofia Pernas, Tate Ellington, Natacha Karam and Hadi Tabbal.

Read on for my thoughts on the new drama after screening its premiere episode.

It's always intriguing to see which trends appear in each year's development cycle for the broadcast networks. It's a time where the networks are buying lots of scripts and trying to figure out which ones are the best and have the potential to land on their schedule. Programming needs and the cultural landscape are crucial in the decision-making as well. A year ago, every network except CBS had a time-travel show. That was the big trend for the year. Of course, Timeless is the only one to be renewed out of that crop - and that wasn't a sure thing either. This year things are incredibly different. The trend from this cycle is military-themed dramas. NBC, CBS and The CW will all be launching their looks at military life over the next few weeks. It's obviously a ploy to appeal to more conservative audiences. It's the networks adjusting expectations following the recent presidential election. This appears to be the solution that they all came up with. They believe these are the types of shows audiences want. Each one has its own unique spin on the subject matter. And yet, they all start to blur together as well. So much like time travel, it seems unlikely that any one particular show will last for years and years.

The premise for The Brave is that it follows two sets of teams working worlds apart to succeed in various missions around the globe. The first is a team of analysts working out of Washington, D.C. who have access to vast amounts of information and can provide drone aerial support. This team is lead by Anne Heche's Director Patricia Campbell. The second is a team of soldiers working in the field carrying out these missions. This time is headed up by Mike Vogel's Michael Dalton. The two teams work hand-in-hand in order to protect the country's interests around the world. That's the basic premise of this show. And like most of the shows premiering this fall on the broadcast networks, only one episode was made available for review. It's a really rough premiere too. It moves concisely enough. It's put together well by director Brad Anderson. And yet, the script is incredibly lacking. It feels like the first draft of a pilot script. It's not something that should actually have been picked up to series and will actually be producing more episodes moving forward. Instead, it just has a feeling of a bunch of elements being thrown together.

Every character is introduced with a chyron that states their name and importance to the team. It's an effective way to handle exposition. And yet, the characters are still bogged down by lackluster writing and broad archetypes. There really isn't an original thought present in this show. It incorporates characters you have seen thousands of times already. There's the leader returning to work soon after a personal tragedy because the work is just too damn important. There's the field agent saddled with a desk job because of some traumatic mission gone wrong. There's the good and devout Muslim trying to subvert American expectations for what he is suppose to do or say. There's the black Christian who tries putting things into perspective in as few words as possible. There's the female member of the team who constantly appreciates not being seen as a woman in this job. It's just a lot of broad storytelling that doesn't really add up to anything overwhelmingly positive or compelling to watch. There really are no standouts amongst this cast at all. They all kinda just blend into the background. That's not a good thing at all. The premise is the hook of the show with all of the characters being seemingly interchangeable. After one episode, I could barely tell you anything about what they do outside of these broad stroke characterizations.

All of this is incredibly disappointing for Anne Heche. She's an Emmy-nominated actress who deserves better parts than the roles she's been given over the last few years in television. The Brave will join Dig, Aftermath, The Michael J. Fox Show and Save Me on her resume of shows that just didn't have a solid vision that could use Heche to the best of her abilities. Meanwhile, people like Mike Vogel and Tate Ellington aren't being asked to do anything different than what they've done in the past. Vogel is still the leader people follow into dangerous situations whose brave ideas ultimately get everything to work out in the end. Ellington is an analyst who mostly drops exposition about what's going on in the main plot. Again, there's just nothing exciting to this show. And that's not even talking about the plot of the first episode. It's basically a blond American woman being kidnapped by a bunch of foreigners screaming at her in a different language. Those optics aren't great. Plus, it just feels like such a stereotypical story. How else are we going to know that this team is fighting to uphold everything American stands for if they aren't rescuing an attractive blonde woman from terrorists? Yes, she also happens to be a doctor. And yes, that is important to the main plot. But it's still a show where the best name they could come up with for the terrorist villain is Baghdadi. That just screams a lack of creativity.

So basically, there's no reason for me to watch any more episodes of The Brave. I would have if NBC sent out more to critics for advance review. But I'm also glad they didn't. I'm perfectly content knowing that my last viewing of this show ends on an incredibly hacky cliffhanger that makes no sense whatsoever. Again, it feels like Scriptwriting 101 where the teacher instructs the perspective writers that all pilots must end on a cliffhanger to ensure people come back for the second episode. It's not an outdated concept either. It's still fairly common amongst new shows - especially on the broadcast networks. This one is just so egregious and tacked on in order to have an intense conclusion. And yes, it still may work for some people. The Brave will have a solid lead in from The Voice. It's a time slot that has made hits before - even though it didn't ultimately do much for Timeless or Taken. But both of those shows are coming back for new seasons. That could be the fate for The Brave as well. It shouldn't because of all the reasons I just talked about. But it's within the realm of possibility too.