The CW's 'The 100' Looks Like A Keeper

It looks like The CW might have a new success on its hands with the ambitious Juvenile Delinquents in Space drama “The 100,” the premiere of which last night earned respectable numbers by the mini-net's standards, building from its popular lead-in (“Arrow”) and its year-ago time period occupant (“Supernatural”).

Interest in this series is not difficult to understand. It's based on a young adult novel -- a hot thing in movies and television these days -- and it's filled with pretty young people (cast seemingly without regard to their acting abilities). Also, it's a science-fiction show and it holds the promise of many a star-crossed romance (oops, that's another new CW show) and a torrid love triangle or two -- or more. There are 98 physically fit young people (most of them horny and/or full of themselves) roaming around a post-apocalyptic Earth without parental supervision almost 100 years after nuclear annihilation left only those people lucky enough to be in space stations alive to carry on the species. You do the math.

Yes -- I said 98 young people, not 100. At the start of the pilot there were 100 (all of them troubled or bad in some way) sent as guinea pigs from a jumbo space station known as the “Ark” (cobbled together from the many stations that were in orbit when Earth died) that can supposedly support life for only a few more months to explore what is left of the Earth and see if it is inhabitable again. But by pilot’s end two of them were dead; in future episodes even more brats buy the farm.

Anyway, the cast is large, the action moves back and forth between a massive space station and a post-apocalyptic earth, the young people are pretty and mostly dimwitted and the adults (on the station) are even dumber. Plus, there are monsters in the waters and creepy beings in the forests. What's not to like? How can this one not work? It's a guilty pleasure no matter how you approach it -- especially if you watch only to see terrible things happen to these awful characters, not one of whom comes off as especially sympathetic. I think it will be around for a while.

“The 100” challenges its viewers to immediately busy their brains with other matters while watching, lest they begin to ask obvious questions, which come fast and furious with each passing moment. The big one is -- if the Ark can only support life for another three months or so, why isn't everyone on it taking their chances on Earth? If the 100 young people -- most of  them deemed disposable because of past criminal behavior or other transgressions -- don't survive on Earth, then everyone on the station will soon be dead, too. The entire series seems like one long moot point. Maybe the narrative will clear this up in future episodes.

Also, why are the scientists on the Ark surprised when the kids, who are set free in what looks to be a lush paradise, begin disconnecting the bands that were locked onto their wrists to allow the adults in the Ark to monitor what they were doing? Did they actually expect these young people to behave and do as they were told? Surely they were all young once, even if they weren't delinquents.

Here's another: Upon arriving on earth with almost no supplies, why do only five of the 98 kids who survive the trip go looking for food and water? Aren't the other 93 concerned about surviving? They run around declaring “We can take care of ourselves!” and “Here there are no laws!” Their motto is, “Whatever the hell we want!” Apparently that includes starving.

Oh, and how did all these young people who have been living for years as prisoners on a space station score clothes and hairstyles that suggest they were locked in a sprawling suburban shopping mall during that time? (If this show lasts, which chain store will be the first to feature fashions “inspired” by “The 100”?)

The 98 come off as perfect millennials -- albeit without tablets and cell phones -- all empowered and entitled and utterly without any understanding that actions have consequences. But these kids exist 100 years in the future, and they have lived in outer space all of their lives, suggesting that in terms of parenting and societal enabling, nothing much changed. To what extent that circumstance may have brought about our eventual annihilation isn’t made clear.

The adult cast includes Paige Turco, Henry Ian Cusick and Isaiah Washington, an impressive group of proven grown-up performers for a CW show. The younger actors fail to make significant impressions, but that has as much to do with the silly stuff they are asked to do as the limitations of their acting.

Tags: teens, tv
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