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'Extant' Drew 9.4 Million Viewers Last Night. Did You Watch? Your Reactions?

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
July 10, 2014 12:14 PM
11 Comments
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9.424 million viewers - that's what CBS' new Steven Spielberg-produced futuristic thriller "Extant," which stars Halle Berry, drew last night, for its premiere.

Expectations were apparently for a higher figure, as analyst comparisons to ratings for CBS' last big summer series debut, "Under The Dome," abound. "Dome" drew 13.14 million viewers a summer ago.

Then again, one could argue that, even in just a single year, our TV viewing habits have changed (and continue to change), affecting how much live TV watching we all do (you can thank binge-watching for some of that shift; it's certainly had an effect on me). 

Still, 9.424 million viewers is nothing to sneeze at. 

Did you watch? If so, what did you think?

I did tune in, and I live-tweeted the entire hour. I can't say that I was immediately hooked, but I certainly wasn't turned off either, and will definitely be returning for seconds, and hopefully even more servings after that.

What did strike me most was that, for what we could maybe be describe as an "event" series, the producers went more for the steady and calm, than the expected speed and spectacle in a pilot that would be used to hook today's attention-span-challenged audiences, instantly, leaving them wanting even more. Typically, as is often the case in blockbuster summer movies, the front-loaded first 10 to 15 minutes are designed to suck you in immediately. I'd consider a pilot episode of a TV series similar to those first several minutes of a feature film. 

Hooking your audience becomes even more crucial in a climate like the one we are in currently, when competition for eyeballs (TV, film, online, mobile) is maybe stiffer than its ever been in the history of media. As a content creator, swinging for the fences, to use a baseball term, aiming for a immediate home-run, should be primary on your to-do list.

But, as I can't speak for others, I can only say that, as a lover of science fiction, I was intrigued enough by last nights first episode, considering it simply as the set-up for what's to come in future episodes. So I'll definitely be watching, hoping for the best.

In "Extant," Halle Berry plays a female astronaut trying to reconnect with her family, when she returns home after a year on a solo mission in space; her arrival back on earth comes with the realization that she's carrying what is likely an alien baby (or something). 

Sergio Harford, Goran Visnjic, Louis Gossett Jr., Grace Gummer, Camryn Manheim and Michael O'Neill all co-star.

The script was penned by Mickey Fisher, who is executive producing alongside Spielberg, Greg Walker, Brooklyn Weaver, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. 

Early reviews have been decidely mixed; Here are what a handful of TV critics who've seen the pilot episode are saying about the new series:

From The 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 [...] Despite having Berry and a sci-fi idea that, while not super-original, is still intriguing, Extant lays flat for most of the hour, failing to set the hook. This is one example where the previews are significantly more thrilling than the pilot."

From Variety: “Extant” feels a bit like a Steven Spielberg greatest (and not-so-greatest) hits album, from “A.I.” to, in this case, a close encounter of the reproductive kind. That’s not an indictment so much as a road map to this CBS summer drama, which brings the star power of Halle Berry to the screen as an astronaut who returns to Earth after an extended mission only to discover — after an “anomaly” — that she’s pregnant, however impossible that seems. Throw in assorted subplots, and it’s certainly an intriguing launch; but then again, so was “Under the Dome” before that narratively ran into a brick wall."

From The 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. CBS has made a lot of money by not overestimating its viewers: The promos on television and the Internet reveal pretty much everything important about the first episode, and that premiere ends with too few things left to the imagination."

From Time magazine: "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. Surprisingly for a TV vehicle for an Oscar winner, the pilot doesn’t give Berry a string of showy, actorly moments. Her performance is reserved, bordering on seeming a little shell-shocked, as Molly works on getting her Earth-legs back under her; the show’s direction is quiet and composed. And the teases we get about the possible cause of her pregnancy have the potential to become either a compelling enigma or starchild hooey."

And from USA Today: "If parts of the tale are familiar, it's all well-told, with a bit of visual flair; an occasional flash of humor to lighten the otherwise pervading air of disquiet; and some excellent performances from Visnjic, Gagnon and Camryn Manheim. The big draw, though, is Berry. Even in an industry that sets a high bar for beauty, Berry overachieves—but she's more than just stunning. She brings a dignity and gravity to Molly, a projected intelligence that allows you to buy her as an astronaut and to see what has happened to her as frightening rather than ridiculous. Berry's all in, and you float along."

And finally, from The Washington Post: "As with nearly every piece of sci-fi television programming that lands on my desk, “Extant” quickly runs up its credit cards when it comes to borrowing imagery and ideas from other classics. Some scenes are heavily aped (including more than one nod to “Extant” executive producer Steven Spielberg’s own “A.I.,” as well as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”), while some are just glancingly cribbed (“Moon,” “Solaris,”“Gravity”). Still other moments amount to the TV equivalent of song sampling, as when a distressed Berry splashes a sinkful of water on her face precisely in the manner of Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens.” (The “Alien” franchise should also get a footnote or shout-out or something for “Extant’s” central crisis — an inexplicable space pregnancy — but for that matter, so should“Rosemary’s Baby.”)"

Like I said, not particularly strong overall. But then again, these are reviews based solely on a single episode. So we watch to see how it all shakes out in the end. Patience is often rewarded.

What did you think?

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11 Comments

  • Marvin Price | July 11, 2014 9:35 PMReply

    Extant, is a great blend of classic science fiction story telling. Many of the plot points can be traced back to the original Outer Limits and it has a sort of Harlan Elison feel to it. On top of that add aspects of A.I. (the movie), mystery, drama, and conspiracy and you've got something worth paying attention to. If you have the attention to pay. If not, borrow some on credit from your PewDiePie watching.

    If this is not your cup of tea, you might be more comfortable with all of the genre programs on The CW. Targeted specifically at the young, they have lots of actors pretending to be hip teenagers where the extent of the plot is basically who is sleeping with whom.

    I'm afraid there will be no vampires in this, no young adult post-apocalyptic hungry games, no brother and sister incest, though it could use a magnificent dwarf actor in some serious position of power.

    CBS has made the ultimate error with young viewers in making it difficult to find online. I had no idea there was a separate pilot and S1E1. Still, it drew 9.4 million viewers and in this brave new world of fragmented viewing, that's nothing to sneeze at.

  • Langston | July 11, 2014 5:10 PMReply

    I thought it was worth watching. I believe that the creative team is counting on the "intrigue" factor, to carry us to at least the next couple of episodes. I think as viewers, we will have a better sense of what we've got, once we get through Episode 2 at least.

  • Lancer | July 11, 2014 11:26 AMReply

    Disappointed. It seemed like alot of borrowed material. I will watch a few more episodes, but Spielberg is getting predictable.

  • Roberto | July 11, 2014 12:37 AMReply

    Yeah I really liked the premiere I will definitely be back 4 more

  • gaura | July 10, 2014 9:21 PMReply

    I liked it enough to plan on watching the series. It's science fiction for grown-ups. It concentrated less on tech and more on characters. Halle Berry carries the episode well; the supporting cast is solid. It's a keeper.

  • s | July 10, 2014 7:04 PMReply

    I loved it. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, and so I'm always happy to see a high quality sci fi series. Halle Berry is fantastic, and I also am intrigued by both the outerspace storyline and the robotic boy plot.

  • guest | July 10, 2014 5:21 PMReply

    I thoroughly enjoyed Extant. It exceeded my expectations. A program that makes you think for a change.

  • Felix | July 10, 2014 2:47 PMReply

    Halle Berry on TV every week is a plus for me. TV plots are always boring, but with star power like this I'm watching!

  • CM | July 10, 2014 1:12 PMReply

    15 minutes of television jam packed into 1 hour.

    The pace was slow and the characters boring. The husband and AI son story was a snoozefest.

    I flicked the channel at ther 1/2 hour commercial break and only watched snippets after that.

    For all the hype, it's DOA at my house.

  • Scott | July 10, 2014 12:36 PMReply

    I liked the pilot. They set a interesting mystery, that out to be pretty good, or a convoluted mess.

  • Scott | July 10, 2014 12:37 PM

    *set up

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