When “Lost” debuted in 2004, it was hailed for its revolutionary plotline and its crossover of mystery and sci-fi genres: TV had never seen anything like it. Now two years after the end of “Lost,” “The River” picks up the pieces it left behind, complete with a mysterious island in the Amazon and a shifty monster driving the main cast to misery.

The River

Pilot
Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
ABC


Though the plotline bears an uncanny resemblance to that of “Lost,” “The River” can be deemed a worthy successor and not just a carbon copy. The new venture from Oren Peli, creator of “Paranormal Activity,” relies on “found footage,” quick cuts and documentary-style format. “The River” is undeniably a hybrid between “Lost” and “Paranormal Activity,” yet somehow, it works.

Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood, “Star Trek”), a legendary nature explorer who is beloved by much of the world for his famed television show, goes missing in the Amazon. After six months of searching, he is declared dead … that is, until his emergency beacon goes off.

His wife Tess (Leslie Hope, “24”) and his reluctant son Lincoln (Joe Anderson, “Across the Universe”) travel to the Amazon in search of the lost man with a camera crew and Lincoln’s childhood friend Lena (newcomer Eloise Mumford) in tow. They encounter unseen supernatural forces native to the island of La Boiúna, barely managing to escape alive.

The complicated dynamic between Lincoln and his parents begins to play out in the two-hour premiere. Emmet is loved by masses of people, but to Lincoln he is just an absent father. Lincoln is noticeably hesitant in continuing the search and correctly identifies Tess’s motivation as guilt about an affair. Flashbacks to Lincoln’s childhood show that Emmet cared deeply for his son, but the call of nature’s magic and mystery were too great for him to ignore.

The supporting cast members are also compelling. Jahel Valenzuela (Paulina Gaitan, “Sin Nombre”) is a young girl capable of communicating with the mysteries of the island. She is able to channel Emmet’s spirit in a creepy sleepwalking sequence reminiscent of “Paranormal Activity.” Clark Quietly (Paul Blackthorne, Bollywood’s “Lagaan”), the producer of Emmet Cole’s show, is known to butt heads with Cole. Their relationship is reminiscent of Jack and Locke — one’s a skeptic and the other’s a believer.

But as “Lost” fans watched the island with a mind of its own develop into a character in itself, “The River” doesn’t offer a parallel universe. The island of La Boiúna doesn’t bring much in terms of complexity and mystery beyond the unknown monster. Where there were polar bears and hatches, there are now simply leaves and soil, leaving audiences intrigued about the search for Emmet Cole but less so about the island and its secrets.

As a two-hour installment, the premiere was exciting and gripping. Mystery drove the plot, intriguing the audience with secrets left unexplained. There were complex characters with complex relationships and a promise of answers in subsequent episodes. Though a two-episode debut for a show that was promised only eight episodes is risky, ABC has shown belief in and commitment to the midseason replacement for “Dancing with the Stars.”

At its core, “The River” is based on magic and mystical happenings: Skeptics and non-believers should stay clear. Though the style and theme seem to be adapted from its predecessors, “The River” is able to mesh the two into a refreshing and exciting show.

As Emmet Cole would say, “There’s magic out there.” And he’s right. “The River” is proving itself to be a major contender in the sci-fi arena, fitting nicely into the “Lost”-shaped hole in all of our hearts.

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