The real mystery of "Extant," the Steven Spielberg-produced Halle Berry-in-space drama that premieres tonight, isn't how Berry's astronaut managed to get herself pregnant while doing a year-long solo mission in a space station. It's what happens next, and where, if anywhere, the Steven Spielberg-produced series has to go. The pilot, written by first-time series creator Mickey Fisher and directed by "The Sopranos'" Allen Coulter, establishes a world not too far in the future, which meshes well with the show's budgetary limitations. People still live in houses and own cars, even if those cars drive themselves and, in Berry and her husband Goran Visnjic's case, they share that house with an android (Pierce Gagnon) they've raised as their son.
People also still appear out of the shadows when our heroine is taking out the trash, "All the President's Men"-style, to warn her of the existence of a shadowy conspiracy before slinking back the way they came. And that's where "Extant" runs into trouble, at least for anyone trying to figure out whether to tune in next week. The show is well put-together, and Berry is on her game playing a woman who, despite the fact that she's a high-achieving astronaut, comes across as a lot more down-to-earth than the women she's played on the big screen. (There's one painful-to-watch scene late in the episode where she's meant to be staring anxiously at a blank screen, but otherwise this is as easy and natural as she's ever been.) But the pilot feels more like a sizzle reel than a story; it's enough to pique my interest, but that's all it does. The critic Mark Harris recently railed against "cable dramas that give off an 'It'll all knit together by episode 8' vibe," and "Extant" is their network equivalent, a tantalizing tease with little hint of whether or not it will pay off in the end.
"Extant" airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBS.
More reviews of "Extant"
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
The premise of "Extant" is decent enough: Halle Berry's character, astronaut Molly Woods, goes on a solo space mission and comes home pregnant. OK, sure. But that's the kind of hook-me-now, explain-how-it-evolves-some-other-time kind of network-suit gratification that ultimately alienates viewers. "Extant" seems, in the hourlong pilot given to critics, intent on hooking viewers with what might be, without giving much hint of what will be.
Allesandra Stanley, New York Times
“Extant” is both suspenseful and quite silly, a paradox that may be explained by its provenance. The series is a collaboration between Mr. Spielberg’s production company Amblin Television and CBS Television Studios, which previously teamed up to make “Under the Dome,” a CBS summer series that is now in a second, and full-on ridiculous, season. “Extant” is more deft and sophisticated, and Halle Berry is a big star. But, as is the case with “Under the Dome,” the new series dilutes its own mystique with too many plodding plot devices and stock characters.
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times
It's hard to know from hour one where the story — which can read like an anthology of themes and motifs from the Spielberg canon, executed with a splash of the director's own steely sentimentality — is headed. It is an elegant and well-appointed production, with some nice Cinematic Moments — it's no surprise that CBS has sent Berry a limousine and not a taxicab to ride in. Still, if you rub the pixie dust from your eyes you might notice edges that don't quite match and places where story trumps sense.
Mark Perigard, Boston Herald
“Extant” plays with genres, mixing sci-fi, conspiracy thriller and scenes from a struggling marriage. It also asks some daring questions about the collision of machine and humanity. It just seems to lack real people.
James Poniewozik, Time
From the early looks of things, what’s driving "Extant" is not a single who-or-what’s-the-daddy mystery, but the show’s ideas. Granted, most of those ideas are nothing new under — or rather orbiting — the sun. But the sci-fi mashup at least comes together promisingly. It’s way too soon to say whether this jumble works, but it’s promising that "Extant's" premiere seems confident enough to play it cool and mysterious rather than hammer us with holy-crap moments.
Willa Paskin, Slate
No one element of this show feels original, and yet I would totally watch more, even if just to peep at the sleek futuristic garbage cans again. (In the future, our trash is very compact.)
Amy Ratcliffe, IGN
The pilot episode hit the right note of providing information without falling into the overload trap. We still have plenty more to learn about Molly and her family and what exactly happened while she was in space in coming episodes. The lingering questions could be the show's downfall though; they'll have to avoid stringing viewers along and be careful in balancing the mystery with character developments.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
It's entirely possible that without Coulter around to direct, or once Fisher has to extend the storyline over multiple episodes, "Extant" could become loose and lacking in direction. But I watched this first episode in the midst of watching a few dozen fall network pilots, and this was a lot more intriguing than many of those. It's a good start, at least.