‘La Brea’: Thanks to y’all, I’ve ‘Lost’ my damn mind

La Brea
“Pilot”
September 28, 2021

Welcome to the 2021-2022 hate blog, and you guys: you’ve picked a doozy. As hate blogs go, this might be the king of all hate blogs. I genuinely hated The Orville, but at least Seth MacFarlane was trying to do something. I didn’t like what he was doing, but he had a vision. I didn’t hate Manifest — I didn’t love it, mind you — but I almost respected how insane and illogical the whole thing was. And as for Stumptown, I didn’t hate it at all; if anything, my lack of hate for it made it impossible to recap.

But La Brea … this show … this show fucking infuriates me.

Here’s the thing: Hollywood is a lazy and expensive place, so if something works, if something makes a ton of money, they do whatever they can to replicate that magic. It’s why we are trapped inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, why there are dozens of Star Wars projects suddenly, why shows get turned into movies and movies get turned into shows and why no show is safe from being rebooted one day down the road. Hollywood knows that we like the familiar, that we are like 6-year-olds who only want to eat chicken nuggets for dinner every night.

And Lost worked. It was at the time a phenomenon. Everyone watched it, and we all talked about it in real time. We can argue about the ending at another time: the point is everyone watched that ending, and had an opinion about it. In fact, it was possibly the last network show that we would watch together.

And this is why there have been so many Lost ripoffs since: Flash Forward, Manifest, The Event, Once Upon a Time, The Nine, V, Heroes even. Lost worked — so just take the things about Lost that made it work and plug them into a new show and recreate the magic! But while all of these shows used flashbacks or mysteries or both, none of them — not one — just ripped off Lost whole hog. None of them stole entire plot points and characters and theories, and none of them dared to recreate entire scenes shot-for-shot.

Until now.

I’ve seen plenty of reviews of La Brea calling it a Lost ripoff or a wannabe Lost, but these descriptions do not do justice to the amount of theft that La Brea committed in this episode. Friends, this pilot episode is as if two not very bright 6th graders rewrote the Lost pilot after having come home from a field trip to the La Brea Tar Pits Museum. I am ASTOUNDED at the sheer laziness on display here. Adults made this! Adults looked at this and said, “Yes, this is good. Let us make this.”

MULTIPLE ADULTS.

Ugh, I could rant all day, so let’s just push pause on that for now and get to the recap of this stupid bad show.

It’s Los Angeles, Wilshire Blvd., typical morning traffic. And now, EXPOSITION CRAM JAM: The underappreciated (and Harris County native!) Natalie Zea, whose character’s name is ~checks notes and sighs in HITTING US OVER THE HEAD WITH A HAMMER~ “Eve,” is driving her older teens to school and running late to her job doing … who knows. Teen Son Josh asks Teen Daughter Izzy something about her prosthetic leg — because she only has one leg — and makes eyes at the cute teen girl in the next car over. Meanwhile, Izzy makes some comments suggesting they move back to San Bernadino and that Eve should give their dad another chance, while Eve absentmindedly plays with her wedding ring which she is wearing on a chain around her neck.

Then, a dog starts barking, the road begins to crack and suddenly the street falls out from under a traffic officer, dropping her into a sinkhole that is spreading — rapidly. Eve throws the car into reverse and goes careening down the sidewalk, only stopping when she slams into another car. Unable to drive any further, Eve and the kids begin running away from the gaping hole that is continuing to spread outward, devouring cars and ambulances and entire buildings.

THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 WAS LITERALLY TWO WEEKS AGO, GUYS. MAYBE … LIKE … DON’T?

Teen Son decides to be a hero and picks up a little girl who has fallen down, and for his trouble, he is knocked unconscious by the panicking crowd. When Eve realizes that her son is no longer with her, she goes back to help him, only to watch in horror as he falls into the sinkhole. And then it’s her turn to fall. Her daughter tries to hang on to her, but Eve insists that Izzy run to safety and rips her hand away, falling into the sinkhole, too.

As for Izzy, she does run to safety, but only like 20 feet further. And I already have my first question: how did she decide where to stop running? Because she’s AWFULLY close to the edge of that sinkhole.

Sure, over there is a city-eating sinkhole that goes into the center of the earth that just erupted a moment ago, but here, 25 feet away, I’m perfectly safe.

And now is the part where I begin to rage, so seat belts on.

Despite falling some 20,000 feet, Eve is alive and wakes up alone in a grassy field under a tree.

The only thing that is immediately noticeably weird is that there is a green tear in the sky glowing above her. She checks her phone, finds it has no signal and begins running, calling out for her son, and leaving behind her wedding ring next to a rock with a weird claw-like symbol on it.

Eve eventually runs into a man staring out into the middle distance who responds by pulling a gun on her — but it’s mostly just to show us that we know he has a gun, because he immediately lowers it. He asks if she knows where they are, and if she’s real, but before she can answer, she notices a plume of smoke and runs towards it, through a thick forest.

When she emerges from the forest, she’s shocked by what she sees:

CHAOS AND PANIC:

I AM SO ANGRY.

Eve is eventually reunited with her son, Josh, and he wonders where the hell they are.

ANGRY.

Josh introduces his mother to Cute Girl in the Next Car Over, Riley, and everyone confirms that they have no idea what is going on. They then check on Comedy Relief Guy, who is sitting on a restaurant booth laughing to himself because he’s high. They are approached by a Grumpy Lady and a couple looking for a pair of glasses which one of the men lost in the fall; he’s blind as a bat without them.

Dr. Sam, who is Riley’s dad, approaches with a pack of bottled water, and fortunately for all of them, Dr. Sam is not just a surgeon, but also a former Navy SEAL. SO TAKE THAT, DR. JACK SHEPHARD. They are soon joined by Gun Guy, who asks if they all fell through that weird green glow in the sky. They agree that this is, in fact, what happened.

Dr. Sam tries to get everyone to focus: it’s going to be dark soon. They need to find food, water, and shelter, and everyone needs to help. Grumpy Lady confirms that they are going to share everything they find, right? 100%, Dr. Sam insists.

They split up into small groups to search the cars for supplies: Eve with Josh, and Riley with Comic Relief Guy whose name is apparently Scott. He yammers at Riley about how weird all of this is: looking at it logically, they should have fallen into the center of the earth, but that clearly didn’t happen. And why are all the cars destroyed, but they’re all fine?

He then suggests, “Maybe we’re just in an episode of Lost,” because as long as you acknowledge that you’re plagiarizing something entirely, you can’t be accused of plagiarizing something entirely; that’s just the law.

As for Josh, he wanders into the woods ostensibly to use the bathroom, but soon Eve is breaking up a fight between him and Grumpy Lady, whom he accuses of stealing and hoarding some protein bars. She reveals that she’s not a criminal, she’s a cop, so she couldn’t have stolen anything. Because that’s also how the law works. Eve finds the purloined protein bars, but Cop Lady is like, “don’t judge me, everyone will be stealing soon.”

SO ANGRY.

Meanwhile, Riley and Scott open the trunk of one car and discover a huge stash of heroin inside.

I AM GOING TO START SCREAMING AND I AM NEVER GOING TO STOP I SWEAR TO GOD.

Riley and Scott decide that they don’t want the person who has all this heroin in their car to know that they know about it. So, they close the trunk and agree they never saw it.

Eve and Josh discover a dead man in a minivan, and Eve tells her son he’s allowed to be scared.

And finally Lost gets a break when the show decides to steal from Manifest instead and introduces a bad CGI wolf:

You just know they wanted to do a polar bear, but then the 6th graders remembered that they didn’t see any polar bears at the La Brea Tar Pit museum, and went with the direwolf instead.

So the one CGI wolf chases Eve and Josh out of the woods and manages to jump on and bite Josh in the side. Eve knocks the wolf off of her son with some debris, but it gets back up pretty quickly and is about to lunge at her when Gun Guy uses his Chekhov’s handgun to kill it.

But this is no cheap Manifest with only one CGI wolf, friends. No, no, they spent ALL the CGI monies and bought them a SECOND CGI wolf which chases Riley. Scott, who is in a nearby, locked car, freezes when she asks him to open the damn car so that she can get inside to safety, and she’s forced to roll herself under the car.

Dr. Sam honks the horn of a different car, drawing the CGI wolf’s attention. As Dr. Sam yells at a family who is just standing around like dumbasses in this insanity to get in the car and away from the CGI wolf, Dad of Dumb Family decides that instead, he’ll hit the CGI wolf in the head with a big stick. This does not work. CGI wolf kills Dad Dumb and drags his corpse off into the woods for dinner.

So Josh is wounded, but fortunately, they have a surgeon/Navy SEAL on hand to help out. Dr. Sam and Riley help Eve carry Josh into an upside-down bus and search for a first aid kit: Dr. Sam needs antibiotics and sutures.

Meanwhile, Grumpy Cop Lady tells Gun Guy that he saved Josh’s life before asking him to help her build a fire, but he’s all weird and cagey and says that he can’t before skittering back towards the woods.

Eve returns to the bus with a first aid kit, but Dr. Sam explains Josh needs antibiotics and proper sutures or he’s going to bleed out. Eve remembers that she saw an ambulance fall into the sinkhole, it has to be around here somewhere, she’ll go find it.

But Dr. Sam insists that he come with her: it’s going to be dark soon, and anyway, she wouldn’t know what to look for even if she did find the ambulance. He assures her that Riley will stay with Josh and take care of him. Riley is like, “wait, what?” But her father tells her she shouldn’t have any problems, she’s pre-med after all. Riley decides that this is the moment to tell her dad that she dropped that major last semester and he’s all, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

HEY GUYS? YOU’VE FALLEN INTO A PREHISTORIC SINKHOLE AND ARE BEING EATEN BY CGI DIREWOLVES SO THIS KINDA SEEMS LIKE THE LEAST OF YOUR ISSUES RIGHT NOW.

Anyway, Eve says goodbye to her son and she and Dr. Sam head out to find this ambulance despite having no idea where it might possibly be.

Gun Guy is in the woods and about to blow his head off with said gun when Eve and Dr. Sam find him and urge him to stop. Gun Guy talks about being in pain and how this is not their problem, before asking them very politely to please leave him alone, thanks. Eve explains that she is supposed to be out there looking for an ambulance for supplies for her son, but she can’t do that because his stupid suicidal ass is in her way. Gun Guy is like, “Wait, I saw an ambulance in a field when I first got here …” and then proceeds to lead them to it.

I repeat, three characters head out into the unknown wilderness to search for a part of the crash that has been separated from the rest of the disaster scene.

Eve thanks Gun Guy — whose name, it turns out, is Ty — for saving her son, and, while grabbing his torso in evident pain, he apologizes to her: she caught him in an interesting moment.

Ty tells Eve that she’s a good mother, but she sighs that she feels like she’s let her children down plenty of times. He assures her that she can talk to him, and when she tells him he sounds like a shrink, Ty replies that he is one. He also mentions an ex-wife so that we know he is romantically available.

Eve then begins expositing about how one night she was working late and asked a neighbor to pick her daughter up from school. They got into a car accident and her daughter lost her leg, and she blames herself. I mean, this is a weird thing to dump on to a perfect stranger, but expositions gotta get done somehow, I suppose.

Up ahead, Dr. Sam calls out to them: he’s found the mammoth from the La Brea tar pit, which serves as a handy landmark for Ty who points them towards the ambulance.

Back in the bus, Josh begins to get cold, so Riley gives him her jacket and lies down on top of him to try to keep him warm, which I’m sure is exactly what someone with a giant wound in his side needs. MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN YOUR PRE-MED CLASSES, RILEY.

Later, Scott comes onto the bus with a blanket for Josh and an apology for Riley for leaving her to die with the CGI wolves. Whoops! He then offers to look after Josh while she uses his ear pods and gets some rest, and she takes him up on his offer.

Grumpy Cop Lady goes into a truck and finds a flare gun. She shoots it into the sky and screams “HELP US!”

And someone does take notice: a bearded guy wearing what appears to be a bearskin with that same weird claw-like symbol on the back.

I’m going to burn everything to the ground.

Eve, Dr. Sam, and Ty find the ambulance, and good news: it has what Dr. Sam needs to treat Josh. It’s while he’s inside rooting around that Eve notices something: the ambulance has the Hollywood hills painted on its door, the same hills that are right in front of them. They are still in Los Angeles.

And that’s when the trees begin moving behind them, and from the bushes emerges … saints preserve me … a CGI saber tooth tiger.

I would include a screenshot, but it was so dark that it’s worthless. Enjoy this gif of the animatronic saber tooth tiger eating a giant sloth at the La Brea Tar Pits museum, and this old photo of my family at said Tar Pits museum, in which my then-infant son was understandably very alarmed by the same saber-toothed tiger:

BUT WE’RE NOT DONE WITH THIS DUMB SHOW YET, WE STILL HAVE A WHOLE B PLOT TO DEAL WITH.

Right, so a guy who is not Daario from Game of Thrones, but desperately wants to be, is in his truck when he is suddenly overwhelmed with a ringing in his ears, and then a vision of a field of flowers, and some large prehistoric CGI bird. He takes a swig from a flask, and shakes it off, and then takes a look at a photo on his phone of Eve, Izzy, and Josh.

In case you haven’t figured it out: this is Dad who Deserves a Second Chance.

Dad is at the Air Force base in El Segundo which I had to look up because I just did not believe it was called “US Air Force Base,” it had to have a formal name, right? And when I looked it up, I learned 1. it is actually called Los Angeles Air Force Base, which is equally stupid, and 2. it’s actually a United States Space Force base because we are living in the dumbest timeline.

So Dad  — or Gavin, as we learn — goes in for what appears to be a job interview to get his old piloting job back. He’s been out of the Air Force for the past two years and is looking for a way back in.

He explains that his wife and kids moved to Los Angeles recently and he wants to be close to them. His interviewer explains that she looked over his file and saw that he had a crash in the desert some three years earlier and after started “seeing things.” He tries to dismiss it as just a residual effect of a concussion, but his interviewer is skeptical. He insists he doesn’t want to get back in the cockpit, but that he’s had 20 years of experience, so that has to be worth something, right? She smiles, and tells him, “no guarantees.” YEAH, NO SHIT, BECAUSE THIS IS NOT HOW THE MILITARY WORKS.

As Gavin leaves the interview, he notices there is suddenly ACTIVITY! at the base, and people are staring at TVs covering the sinkhole news. It’s then that he receives a phone call from his daughter, in hysterics.

Gavin arrives at the sinkhole site and breaks through the emergency perimeter when he sees Izzy in the back of an ambulance.

She sobs about her mother and brother falling into the hole, and he reassures her that it’s not her fault.

And that’s when the giant prehistoric CGI birds come flying out of the hole.

I’m not going to survive this show, you guys.

So, the Department of Homeland Security decides to hold a press conference on the LIP OF THE SINKHOLE:

Really? There? Right there? That’s where you are going to invite the press to hear a statement that could be made LITERALLY ANY OTHER PLACE ON THE PLANET?

As for what Homeland Security has to say: it’s the biggest sinkhole in history, they don’t know how many people are missing, and there are no rescue missions planned because no one could have possibly survived the fall. But they are going to put a drone down there, soon, to like look around and stuff.

Gavin then has another vision: this time of Eve wandering around the field, and that rock with the claw print on it. Another flash that shows him Eve and Josh together. Izzy can tell he’s seeing things and assures him that it’s not real but he’s like … “Yeah … I dunno. This time it is your mom and Josh. They’re in the woods. I had a vision of those prehistoric CGI birds earlier this morning, and now here they are flying around Los Angeles.”

— NOT THAT ANYONE SEEMS TO BE BOTHERED THAT GIANT PREHISTORIC CGI BIRDS ARE NOW FLYING AROUND LOS ANGELES. WHICH SEEMS LIKE MAYBE SOMETHING PEOPLE SHOULD BE TAKING NOTICE OF —

Anyway, he decides he needs to talk to someone in charge.

Speaking of, Dr. Nathan, who is the Homeland Security lady, and some guy named Adam are walking and talking. He asks how it’s going with the press, and she tells him that she told them “what they needed to hear,” but that she “hates lying to the families.” And he’s all, “What are you supposed to say: the truth?”

ooOOOooOooooOOOOOOOOooo IT’S A GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY, Y’ALL

Dr. Nathan and Adam go into the Homeland Security tent to watch the live feed from the drone as it goes into the hole — specifically, into the green light. Dr. Nathan exposits that the green light is the same as the one in the Mojave Desert, and they estimate it’s at about 20,000 feet. As they send the drone into the light, the feed suddenly cuts out to static.

Gavin tries to talk his way into the Homeland Security tent, but security is all, “Buzz off, Crazy.” Gavin’s sister Ione Skye, or “Aunt Jessica” soon arrives, just as Gavin has another vision: this time of a drone craft crashing. As Dr. Nathan and Adam leave the tent, Gavin approaches them, telling them that his wife and son are in the sinkhole, and he believes people are alive down there. They’re like, “So sorry, please don’t talk to us, Crazyperson.”

But then he calls out that he saw their drone and reads out the serial number and they are like, “What’s your name again?” He gives it, and they’re like, “As we said, no one could have survived. Sorry,” before walking away again. As they leave, Adam asks Dr. Nathan how he could have possibly known that drone information, and she’s like, “Don’t know, but we need to look into him.”

Gavin, Izzy, and Aunt Jessica head to the family home which is really fucking nice for a former Air Force pilot and … whatever it is that Eve does. Seriously, in Los Angeles, this is a $7 million house, AT LEAST, and I’m going to need someone to explain to me how on earth they can afford it. Anyway, back at the impossibly expensive family home, Gavin goes through a box of family photos looking for a picture of the boulder with a hand carved into it, so as to prove to Dr. Nathan that his visions are real.

Izzy and Aunt Jessica are like “YOU NEED TO STOP BEING CRAZY, CRAZY,” before leaving him to brood alone. He has another vision of Eve and the boulder and the claw and the Wilshire Blvd. sign.

That night, he finds the boulder somewhere up in the hills, and grabbing a shovel, begins digging near it. Soon, Izzy and Aunt Jessica have pulled up and demand to know what he’s doing. He tells them about the most recent vision and explains that he thought if he could dig up the sign he could prove he’s not a deranged lunatic.

But just as Aunt Jessica and Izzy urge him to go home, and begin walking back to their car, what should Gavin find in the dirt, but Eve’s wedding ring.

SEE???!!? THEY’RE ALIVE. AND HE’S GOING TO FIND THEM.

Look, I can get behind any number of stupid TV shows — I’m recapping Bachelor in Paradise right now, for Christ’s sake. And like I said, Manifest was almost an object of wonder for me there by the end: so stupid! So weird! So weird and stupid! And if this were just about the CGI wolves and saber-toothed tigers and birds, I’d roll my eyes and call it dumb, but I’d also acknowledge that not every show has to be The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or even Lost-level quality. There are only so many David Chases, and Vince Gilligans, and Damon Lindelofs out there, and also, sometimes you just want to watch a CGI wolf eat people. I get it.

What I can’t abide, however, is this blatant lazy fuckery. As I hope you can see from the screenshots above, this show literally stole entire scenes from the Lost pilot and recreated them SHOT-FOR-SHOT. They clearly thought to themselves: “Well, Lost had a good pilot that everyone reveres; let’s just do that, add some prehistoric creatures, maybe toss in a casual nod to Lost so we can call it an ‘allusion,’ and call it a day. No one will notice.”

And that’s leaving aside all the other DNA they’ve stripped from Lost: people trapped in some strange place with weird time-wonkiness going on; a disparate group of survivors who have to work together to stay alive; the sneaky hoarder with a gruff exterior who alienates themselves from the others; a heroic doctor who takes charge of the situation and appoints himself a leader; threats from strange beasts; HEROIN; a trio of main characters who go on an expedition at the end of the episode in an attempt to save the others; AN ACTUAL HONEST-TO-GOD OTHER WHO WAS THERE BEFORE THEM.

All we’re missing is a smoke monster and a guy who unexpectedly regained the use of his legs.

But I’m not done yet! Because these idiots, they fail to grasp what made Lost such an intriguing series for many viewers: the mystery of it, the puzzle box that invited the viewers to try to figure out what is going on. In the early days of Lost, viewers had plenty of theories that they shared with fellow fans: the plane passengers time-traveled; they were dead and in purgatory; it was a government conspiracy; the monster that they could hear but didn’t see was a dinosaur.

Not only does La Brea literally steal each of those theories, they don’t even allow the viewer to come up with them themselves. By the end of the episode, we know they’ve time-traveled; multiple characters ask each other whether they are alive or not; the government says out loud, “WE BE CONSPIRING!”; and there are saber-toothed tigers running amok. La Brea doesn’t even trust the viewer to do their own theorizing; they think we’re too stupid to come up with any of this on our own, so instead, they spoon-feed it to us.

And don’t even bother with any of the bigger thematic or symbolic questions that Lost was pondering about interconnection and relationships and the Meaning Of It All — if we’re too stupid to grasp that they have traveled back to prehistoric times without the writers literally saying it OUT LOUD to us, I doubt La Brea will be dabbling in the more esoteric issues Lost tackled that intrigued many viewers. And that’s certainly for the best because I honestly don’t trust these ham-fisted hacks to even begin to attempt to ask those kinds of questions.

I’m legitimately mad, y’all, and somehow I doubt this is the last time I’ll be screaming at this terrible show. Thanks for the headaches, guys. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a rage nap.

La Brea airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 8/9 p.m. It will be the death of me.

5 thoughts on “‘La Brea’: Thanks to y’all, I’ve ‘Lost’ my damn mind

  1. (Trying this again after previous two attempts failed due to Google sign-in issues.)

    I watched the pilot as well, just to see for myself what this would be, and it was very dumb. They clearly spent a bunch of money on this, and NBC is heavily promoting it, and it it is so dumb. The CGI wolves nearly broke my brain.

    I admit, I did not notice the “Lost” ripoffs. I googled around and found some reviews that made comparisons to “Los” but left it there, and I found an interview with the creators (https://www.cbr.com/la-brea-sci-fi-nbc-creators-interview/) that didn’t mention “Lost”. I just wonder if they would claim they meant those shots as homage, or if they would deny it all, if called on it.

    I may watch some more just to see how nuts this gets, and to see if they can make it slightly less dumb. I wish you godspeed and all the box wine as you make it through.

    (I also didn’t realize that was Ione Skye. More Aunt Jessica!

  2. Yeah, but other than those few criticisms, good pilot, huh?

    It may be a Lost rip-off. (I’ll be looking for the character flashbacks.) But it is kinda fun. I’ll give it as many episodes as I gave Manifest to prove itself.

  3. If they will just please kill off the one-legged daughter, please please please, I will watch every single episode that comes out even if I have to Clockwork Oranged to endure it.

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