Remember when summer TV used to just be reruns? Then remember when it was just a place for networks to dump some reality shows and burn off unaired episodes of canceled shows? I kind of miss those days! Summer is now a hotbed of new shows, and because the TV schedule has become an increasingly year-round deal, new shows are still rolling out left and right, as is the case with Lifetime's new dystopian sci-fi drama, The Lottery. Yes, you read that correctly: The network is venturing into (very) soft sci-fi territory to complement its more fantasy-driven offering, Witches of East End. But is The Lottery worth watching, or is it a bad bet? Read on to find out.
What's The Lottery about? Is it an adaptation of that Shirley Jackson short story I had to read in school?
No, it is not an adaptation of that classic American tale of communal stoning. This The Lottery is set in a not-too-far-ahead future where no new babies have been born for about five years and civilization is starting to cru—
Wait. This sounds like Children of Men. Is this a TV version of Children of Men, or the book it was based on by P.D. James?
Well, kind of, but not really. It has the same basic premise, but whereas Children of Men was set around 20 years after human infertility began—by which time the world had become pretty horrible—The Lottery's circumstances aren't as dire (yet). In 2016, birth rates plummeted. In 2019, only six kids were born. It's 2025 when the series begins, and while things have certainly changed, they haven't reached the extremes of Children of Men. Plus, there’s still hope: A team of American scientists have successfully created 100 human embryos, and the government is planning to hold a lottery to select the women who will carry them—to hopefully be the mothers of the future of the human race (at least in the United States). Not everyone is particularly keen on this idea, however, and that's the driving force behind the show.
Who's responsible for giving life to The Lottery?
The show was created by Timothy J. Sexton, who was, you will not be surprised to learn, one of the screenwriters of Children of Men. I guess he's just really interested in this idea. Also behind the scenes are producers Danny Cannon (Nikita, Alcatraz, Gotham) and Dawn Olmstead.
Leading the cast are Marley Shelton as Dr. Alison Lennon, the woman behind the project to create the embryos; Michael Graziadei as Kyle, the struggling single father of one of the six kids born in 2019; Athena Karkanis as White House Chief of Staff Vanessa Keller to Yul Vásquez's President of the United States; and Martin Donovan is Darius Hayes, a super shady power-broker type of guy. David Alpy, Shelley Conn, and J. August Richards also appear.
When does The Lottery begin?
The Lottery begins Sunday, July 20 at 10pm on Lifetime.
How can I tell if I should enter The Lottery?
If you like your science-fiction grounded in reality, with only a little bit of far-fetched/likely wholly inaccurate science to justify the premise, The Lottery might be worth checking out.
What elements of The Lottery has that new baby smell?
I’m very excited about the The Lottery's world. The U.S. government has shifted enough that the president can apparently be recalled by the opposition party. Women are required to undergo fertility testing, which appears to mean surrendering an egg for experimentation. The women whose eggs were successfully fertilized have no rights to said eggs. Selling fertility drugs is a crime. There’s also a seemingly omnipotent Department of Humanity. All together, it's some nice world-building that could end up saying something interesting about women's bodies and rights in today’s world. In a lot of ways, The Lottery's emphasis on female biology reminds me a lot of what I liked about Orphan Black before it got too bogged down by schemes within conspiracies within intrigues. I also like that the lead character, Alison, is something of a jerk.
And what about The Lottery has the stink of a used diaper?
Despite my enthusiasm for the show's ideas and premise, the pilot is rather airless. Performances are a little wobbly (Shelton, in particular, can't seem to find a consistent energy or tone), dialog comes off as stilted, and some of the plot mechanics are a little bit hazy, notably the reason Alison's boss Darius is so quick to fire her from the embryo project even though she's the person who's responsible for its success. There’s a potential reason, but the opening episode never connects the dots; the show just wanted Alison out of the lab, I guess.
So are you recommending this, or not?
I’m going with "yes" because even with its faults, I'm still very interested, and sort of excited, about the show's potential. Of course, it could also all come crashing down in Episode 2; it’s hard to tell.
Can I see a trailer?
The Lottery premieres Sunday, July 20 at 10pm on Lifetime.
AIRED ON 9/28/2014
Season 1 : Episode 10