Much to your faithful TV Nerd's dismay, there aren't that many new shows debuting this mid-season that I'm interested in. There's Bizarre Foods America on Travel Channel, because Andrew Zimmern is my hero, and there's The River, which premiered Tuesday night on ABC.
Brought to the airwaves (cablewaves?) by Oren Peli of Paranormal Activity fame, The River employs the same first person camera POV as the film in telling the story of missing popular TV naturalist Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood, whom you all remember from Nowhere Man, right?) and the people who go looking for him in an uncharted part of the Amazon, namely his wife Tess (Leslie Hope, whom I last saw as Kristina Frye on The Mentalist), son Lincoln (Joe Anderson from the forthcoming final Twilight movie), and a TV crew that intends to turn their journey into a lucrative reality show. I decided pretty quickly that the first person camera doesn't necessarily add much to the story, but it does add an extra layer of intensity to the creepy scenes, so I suppose the gimmick is worth it in the end. And so far, there sure are a lot of creepy scenes, from an angry spirit stalking their boat at night to a tree from whose vines dangle thousands of old, battered children's dolls. (The monkey with the doll's face on its head was a spectacular fake out.)
The creepy stuff works, and the setting is amazing, but the characters could use some work. The TV crew are all scumbags, the private security guy is your run of the mill macho gun nut, and Emmett's family members and friends are all a little too earnest. Similarly, someone needs to tell them that a little use of CGI dragonflies goes a long way--the more they show them, the worse they look.
But I have to say, I kind of liked it a lot. I'll be tuning in again for sure. Unfortunately, the ratings for the premiere weren't great, so I suspect The River won't make it past this initial eight-episode season. But I plan to be there for the journey.