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What the Critics Are Saying About Halle Berry's New CBS Series 'Extant' Which Premieres Tonight

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 9, 2014 at 4:30PM

Early reviews are decidely mixed, and even leaning towards the negative, so you may want to skip this post if you prefer to be surprised.
8
EXTANT

Halle Berry stars in CBS' new Steven Spielberg-produced futuristic thriller "Extant," which debuts TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 9, at 9/8c. Finally it's here. We've been talking about it for what seems like forever. And I'm definitely curious to find out what the cast and crew have been cooking up for us, being a lover of science fiction.

The series, as we've known so far, will center on 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).

Who might be responsible for that impregnation? It could quite possibly be an alien life form (at least that's what past teasers have suggested) who seemingly appears out of nowhere, on her one-man spacecraft, as played by an actor named Sergio Harford. 

We also learn that her current child with series husband, played by Goran Visnjic, is actually an android.

And there's more, including suggestions of something far more grand at work (or play) than this family realizes. Quite possibly, whatever she's carrying inside of her, might ultimately change the course of human history (or something like that).

All these "somethings" will hopefully be defined when the series debuts tonight, running through the rest of the summer.

Louis Gossett Jr. plays Halle's good-natured but unreliable father - a retired doctor living out his last years in an isolated community, which keeps him out of touch with the rest of the world, including his daughter and her family.

Grace Gummer, Camryn Manheim and Michael O'Neill also co-star in "Extant."

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

Early reviews are decidely mixed, and even leaning towards the negative, so you may want to skip the below if you prefer to be surprised.

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 the pilot that we'll all see tonight. Maybe it gets better per episode. Maybe not. 

I'm hopeful, and will certainly be tuning in tonight to check it out for myself. I might even live-tweet it as well, so follow S&A on Twitter if you aren't already. At worst, I'll share my general thoughts on episode 1 tomorrow morning, and we can further discuss,

For now, below, check out an extended behind-the-scenes look at the series has been released, providing audiences with even more inside information on what to expect, as well as 2 clips from the upcoming series, underneath: 




This article is related to: TV News, TV Videos, Halle Berry, Sergio Harford


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