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NBC’s ‘Manifest’ Combines Imitation With Desperation (review)

September 22, 2004 was the day ABC premiered one of their most successful dramas combining sci-fi, mystery, romance and more. For six seasons, Lost captivated the world, puzzled its watchers and generated some of the most amazing theories about science, religion and more.

Since then networks have tried to recreate that magic. From NBC with The Event (cancelled) to CBS’ Extant (cancelled) to USA Networks’ The 4400 (cancelled) they all featured a mysterious sci-fi based event with one connecting outcome; they were cancelled. However, that isn’t stopping NBC from trying again by airing Manifest, a Lost carbon copy from the mind of Robert Zemeckis and desperation.

Taking place on a plane, Lost Jr. introduces us to various passengers from different backgrounds as they board Monetgo Airways Flight 828, which leaves from Jamaica on April 7, 2013. Turbulence is thick but temporary as the plane makes a successful landing in New Jersey hours later…on November 4, 2013. Possibly entering a time loop (or something far sinister) it becomes clear those few hours on the plane for its passengers were five years and six months for everyone else, thus resulting in the non-passengers to age (and a lot confusion). Through a series of flashbacks and yes flash-forwards, we soon learn these random passengers were destined to be on the plane that day in April.

Focusing on three passengers (it is only an hour show) we are introduced to Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), her brother Ben (Josh Dallas) and her cancer ridden (yes, they pull the cancer sympathy card) young nephew (Jack Messina). Agreeing to be bumped from their original flight they take flight 828 instead, leaving Michaela and Ben’s parents, Ben’s wife Grace (Athena Karkanis) and Cal’s twin sister Olive to continue on their original flight.

All hell breaks loose when predictable discoveries are made; people have moved on (which means marrying your girlfriend’s best friend) others have died and a fatal child cancer is surprisingly cured (cue the tears).

While everyone is adjusting to life melodramatically, strange things start happening to Michaela involving a guiding voice that warns her of impending danger. Quickly shifting its attention from the plane crash investigation to the disappearance of neighborhood kids we soon learn everything is connected (because they tell us repeatedly) to an overall theme that involves the supernatural and bible quotes. Now armed with the ability to predict the future or at least turn you into your friendly neighborhood crime investigator, these passengers set out to uncover the mystery of their disappearance (although no one is complaining about their inability to age).

Manifest is painfully unoriginal and literally laughable as it shoves down your throat its “everything is connected” storyline. With the right script, actors and score (even the music is overly dramatic) Manifest could have easily been intriguing enough for me to want to watch the second episode. Instead there’s no reason for me to be attached to any of these characters nor their journeys because not once does the show allows us to connect with a character. Instead we’re treated to scenes of actors screaming their emotions with cringe-worthy dialogue. It’s interesting concept is further harmed by drawn out lecture that explains everything that has happened, as if it keeps forgetting its own plot.

While shows like The 4400 and The Event were gone too soon in its quest to find its Lost stardom, no one should miss Manifest if it meet its own failed fate.


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