Early in the premiere episode of NBC’s new fall disaster thriller “La Brea,” one of the characters acknowledges the show’s debt to “Lost.”
The line may have been included by the show’s writers as a self-deprecating inside joke. Or maybe they were already realizing that people -- critics and others -- would undoubtedly compare “La Brea” to “Lost,” and the writers were trying to get ahead of that and also own it.
“Lost” was the well-liked ABC series about a group of people who survived a jet crash in the middle of an ocean somewhere and wound up marooned on an island.
In “La Brea,” the line referring to “Lost” is uttered by a survivor of another disaster. “I don’t know,” he replies when another character asks him if he has any idea where they are. He then says, “Maybe we’re in an episode of ‘Lost’.”
Aspects of “Lost” were fanciful beyond the surface characteristics of its marooned-on-a-desert-island storyline.
However, I never watched “Lost” frequently enough to absorb its many nuances and understand them.
I remember once writing about “Lost” and apparently getting one or more plot points wrong and then getting pilloried by “Lost” fans who bombarded me with emails and letters (yes, that was back in the days when readers actually wrote letters).
In “La Brea,” the show’s more fanciful aspects are established from the get-go. It is a much more far-out scenario than “Lost.”
In this show, premiering Tuesday night, ordinary people are going about their morning in Los Angeles (mainly stuck in traffic) when the entire area suddenly collapses in on itself to create the largest sinkhole ever recorded in human history.
Buildings, cars and people fall helplessly into this great abyss, but incredibly, a number of people and objects survive this fall of thousands of feet into the depths of the Earth.
When they recover their wits after this understandable trauma, they look around and find themselves in a place not unlike the surface of the Earth.
However, there is nothing manmade such as streets and buildings here. Instead, they have landed in a natural environment of mountains, trees, grass and other flora.
Animals like none they have ever seen on the Earth’s surface world also make occasional appearances.
The characters in the show have not connected the dots yet, but the audience watching this show gets enough information in Episode One to conclude that the landing spot for these people is possibly a world that precedes history.
In an attempt to make this farfetched scenario even remotely plausible, the center of the sinkhole is (or was) the famed La Brea Tar Pits, a place on L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard with ties to pre-history. Hence, the show’s title: “La Brea.”
A cynic such as yours truly has every right to roll his or her eyes at this show’s premise and some of the situations and circumstances on display.
The most glaring of these is the survival of these people after falling through some sort of brightly lit gap at the bottom of the sinkhole and landing in this new world unscathed.
Surviving the fall is one thing. But then surviving what should have been a downpour of thousands of tons of large-scale debris from collapsed roadways and skyscrapers directly on their heads is another story.
But fortunately for them, none of this deadly debris seems to have landed anywhere near them.
Despite these doubts, “La Brea” is worth a look anyway. At some point while previewing the premiere, I let go of my reservations and actually began to like it. Best of all, for reasons I won’t spoil for anyone, kids of a certain age will really like it too.
“La Brea” premieres Tuesday night (September 28) at 9 Eastern on NBC.