Ladies and gentlemen, we may have finally found our Lost replacement. You might be saying to your computer screen, "but nobody could replace Lost," or worse, "I didn't like Lost." Which, fine, free country. But the fact remains, Lost, like Battlestar Galactica or The X-Files before it, represented a method of storytelling aimed straight at our brains' pleasure centers. Suspense, twists, character arcs, cliffhangers, danger mixed with melancholy-- these are shows that appealed to our intelligence and rewarded our imaginations.
Regardless of whether you liked Lost or hated it, the networks have been trying to emulate its formula for years. The elephant graveyard of failed mystery shows is littered with things like Surface, Invasion, The Runner, Jericho and FlashForward, while V's looking to crash there soon. The Event will probably just disappear into some unexplained wormhole, because let's get real: The Event is not very good.
It's amazing, then, that Cartoon Network of all places might have finally cracked the code. With much less money and aimed squarely at the young adult demographic, its new live-action hourlong Tower Prep premiered this week and its addictiveness is immediate. So far only one episode has aired, so I'm knocking on wood--I'm knocking on ALL the wood--because so far so good. But here are four reasons why you should give this show a chance.
1. The Central Mystery Is Clearly Stated
When Tower Prep's main hero Ian suddenly wakes up in a prep school dorm room with no memory of having arrived there, we immediately know what this show is about: finding out where Ian is, why he's there, and how he will escape. Compare that to The Event's central mystery: that there is a mystery. Later when Ian befriends three other students looking to escape the isolated yet heavily guarded campus, we learn even more tantalizing information: they each have subtle super powers. Boom! Hooked.
2. The Characters Are Well-Written and Likable
During one terrific scene set in the woods at night, our four main characters talk about their backgrounds and their special abilities while also displaying distinctive personalities and good humor. It's just great writing. I immediately like all four of them and it's clear why they'd become fast friends. Most importantly, my liking them as individuals raises the tension when they find themselves in harm's way. I don't want them to get hurt! Again, compare this to The Event, which five episodes in has still not troubled itself to make us care about its characters.
3. The Creators Have Excellent Resumés
You may recognize writer Paul Dini's name-- He was the primary creative force behind the truly awesome Batman: The Animated Series as well as a number of other underrated animated shows. Other behind-the-scenes names include Glen Morgan and Darin Morgan of The X-Files fame. Although there is nothing too ground-breaking in the Tower Prep pilot, it's clear these guys have identified and distilled all the right elements of other TV mysteries into a new, irresistible concoction. It's clear we're in the capable hands of trusted professionals.
4. A Full Season Has Already Been Produced
How many times have you been burned by falling into a new mystery show only to have it yanked off the air when it doesn't get big numbers? A benefit of being one of Cartoon Network's two live-action shows is they're willing to take a chance on it. The fact that all thirteen episodes have been produced (and even reviewed!) should take away at least a bit of your new-show anxiety.
So if you're hurting for a good mystery filled with nice kids and a Prisoner meets Harry Potter vibe, why not check out this plucky little show? It might be worth watching, at least until Michelle Rodriguez joins the cast in season 2.
Tower Prep airs Tuesdays at 8pm on Cartoon Network