Arm doors and cross check, this new US drama sure is a bumpy ride.

If by any chance you still remember Resurrection, FlashForward, or The Event then there is a good chance you will remember Manifest in two years time. Nobody else will.

Somewhere in the Hollywood Upstairs School of Screenwriting an episode of Lost is on a loop and pages in Robert McKee’s Story have a few random paragraphs circled beside and empty software packaging of Final Draft.

What probably once existed as a high-concept pitch has crash-landed into the first episode of Manifest, a new US drama skidding onto a runway near you.

Nine is rushing this to screen before the axe falls in the US or word leaks out about what a stinker it is. Too many times networks have been burnt with titles that sink in the US before they have managed to get to air here, destined for the programming bins of summer or a multichannel, or the ultimate ignominy, both.

What should have been a stock standard flight from Jamaica to New York turns briefly chaotic for Montego Air Flight 828 when turbulence hurls the passengers towards a near-death experience. But after it lands safely all appears well, until police and airport security reveal they have landed 5 years after their flight took off in 2013 (cue Law & Order ‘dun dun’).

Amongst the fight Manifest is intelligence officer Ben Stone (Josh Dallas) and his sister Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) an NYPD police officer. They both learn their mother has died. Also aboard is Ben’s young son Cal (Jack Messina) who was afflicted with Leukemia when he boarded the flight. But in the 5 interceding years there are new medical advancements.

As it happens, medical researcher Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur) was on the same flight and in her absence her theories have been put to good use saving hundreds of lives. Now she wants to help save Cal, who is technically too old for her hospital’s medical trials. Are you keeping up?

Amongst the other revelations, Michaela’s boyfriend has since married her best friend (bastards!) and did we mention the eerie premonition power our survivors now have, in the form of voices-in-their-heads? 1975 is calling and it wants its story device back.

How come the mid-air incident threw everybody 5 years into future with prophetic powers but it didn’t cure the kid of his leukemia? I dunno, but nor do I really care. This takes everything too stupid-serious and is sorely in need of some humour or a good script doctor (see above).

I’m all for an imaginative high-concept series but not one with dialogue such as “The universe just gave all of us a do-over.” Although I did chuckle at another, “We gave up the landline.”

The idea for this takes off jumbo-style, but there is way too much turbulence for any joy flight. Pass me the sick bag.

Manifest airs 8:40pm Wednesday on Nine.

11 Responses

  1. While I can definately where David and will respect his review I have to say I thought the first episode was alright but the second episode is definitely picking up momentum and shows that this show has promise. It doesn’t really have a clear direction based on the first two episodes but it shows bigger things are in store. The first episode felt more like a prologue than anything else.

  2. You’re being overly harsh here, David. The first 2 episodes have been well-received in the US, and the ratings so far have been pretty good. It could be around for a while. I’ll definitely check it out (as it is, it’s one of only 3 new US network shows I’m interested in).

  3. Sounds like one for the “so bad it’s good” category. I’ll check it out. I miss the days when they used to show failed series over summer. Now they just mostly show repeats of popular shows.

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