Defying Gravity (ABC)
Premiered August 2 at 9pm
This show has been billed in every blurb I’ve read as “Grey’s Anatomy” in space – and that’s a very accurate description. It has the same soapy, sex-filled feel, and emphasizes flirtatious character drama over intriguing sci-fi action or plot. “Grey’s Anatomy” is a hospital show, and this is a space show, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Part of the problem is that the liaisons on ground are featured almost as much as the crew, and flashbacks to before the mission are spotlighted extensively so that little of the first two hours actually plays out in space itself. Several of the characters, especially those portrayed by Ron Livingston and Laura Harris, are the clear stars of the show, while others like Paula Garces are reduced to speaking Spanish and interviewing other members of the crew, because they’re clearly deemed to be more interesting than her. All of the characters bring heavy baggage with them, like fears over endangered spawn and false vasectomies, and on top of that, two of the crew members are infected with some mysterious strain which could prove harmful to the mission. It’s identical in setup and inferior in execution in almost every way to FOX’s “Virtuality,” which aired back in June. While this show, regardless of ratings, probably won’t last that many weeks, “Virtuality” only got one two-hour shot at life, and it took the same concepts – long-term mission, small crew, bizarre malfunctions, onboard couples, reality show, and sick crew members – and executed it one hundred times better. A mainstream audience can probably appreciate this show much more than “Virtuality,” but from a sci-fi and quality perspective, the latter is infinitely better than this show could ever be. “Defying Gravity” is corny and overly sexual, and it’s already repeating itself. Within the first two hours, two different crew members were jettisoned into space unexpectedly, and the same discussions (pregnancy, crew members unfit for duty) were rehashed over and over. There’s no real standout acting-wise in the whole cast. Ron Livingston’s never been a great actor, and Andrew Airlie was far more entertaining (and less stiff) as Sam’s dead on “Reaper” earlier this year. Malik Yoba’s decent enough, but his role is terribly dull and unsubstantial. The same is true for Paula Garces, who had such a great minor role on “The Shield” as rookie officer Tina, and I fear she’ll only be a placeholder for the run of the series. Laura Harris (24, Women's Murder Club) deserves the most credit, but her character is just too soapy. This show isn’t for me, I know that, but it also isn’t great all-around. Did you watch? Do you agree?
How will it work as a series? It bears a lot of similarity to “Grey’s Anatomy,” but I imagine that they’ll eventually start killing off crew members and actually approaching their destination. “Grey’s Anatomy” has a fixed anchor point, and I’m predicting that this show will soon lose that, and its crew members will get an unfortunate case of cabin fever, resulting in an unbearable number of flashbacks to the pre-flight training period. I think that this show might actually have worked well as a one-shot, two-hour television event, since I don’t think there’s much gas left in it and it could become tired very quickly.
How long will it last? Starting a show in mid-August is never a good idea, since the only non-cable show I know of that got renewed after an August launch is “The O.C.” and this doesn’t seem like it could end up being anywhere as popular as that. I don’t see any reason for ABC to pull it before its 13-episode run ends, and I imagine it did fairly well in the ratings, but I think any chance of a second season is highly doubtful.
Pilot grade: C