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Natalie Zea's 'La Brea' Is B-A-N-A-N-A-S in the Best-Worst Way

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 30, 2021 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 30, 2021 |


After NBC canceled Manifest (and before Netflix picked it up for a fourth and final season), I had eyed NBC’s La Brea as the series that could replace that oversized hole in my heart, especially after the failure of Jonathan Tucker’s Debris. What’s the point in television if there’s not at least one bad Lost knock-off on network television every year?

La Brea is everything I could have hoped for, and so, so much more. It not only knows it’s a Lost knock-off, one of the characters actually references it. “It’s like we’re in an episode of Lost,” a stoner character utters at one point in the pilot, and that’s exactly what La Brea is: An episode of Lost written by a stoner. It is so bad, but — and I cannot emphasize this enough — it is incredibly entertaining. It is Lost by way of Dude! Where’s My Car. This show is basically what Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) would write if someone offered him a truckload of money and brained him in the head with a 2x4. It’s amazing.

The premise is this: One day, an area about the size of a city block — complete with people, cars, skyscrapers, an Automotive Museum — drops into a sinkhole in the middle of Los Angeles. The sinkhole, however, opens up into another world, and somehow, all the people who fall into the sinkhole, into this other world, manage to survive despite free-falling tens of thousands of feet. When they wake up, they find themselves scattered around in a forested area.

The central family here is the Williamses. Eve (Natalie Zea) and her son, Josh (Jack Martin), fall into the sinkhole, but Eve’s daughter — an amputee with a prosthetic leg (played by amputee Zyra Gorecki) — manages to escape the sinkhole and track down her father and Eve’s estranged husband, Gavin (Eoin Macken), who has been experiencing hallucinations for the last several years.

After the sinkhole opens, however, the hallucinations take on an interesting new form: Instead of seeing an empty forest, he sees the same forest populated with the sinkhole survivors, including Eve and Josh. Gavin tries to tell the authorities that he has visions of the sinkhole, but they think he’s crazy BECAUSE HE’S HAVING VISIONS OF PEOPLE TRAPPED IN A SINKHOLE WORLD. Oh, and Ione Skye — the ex-cheese to Ad Rock’s macaroni — is in this, too, as a family friend, because why not?!

Back in the underground, the survivors are trying to figure out their surroundings and collect food left behind in the various vehicles that also fell from the sky. However, they soon encounter the first of several prehistoric creatures, here a pack of wolves, one of which attacks Josh and leaves him critically wounded — the ceaseless moans of agony are priceless! With the help of a depressed and suicidal character named Ty (Chiké Okonkwo), Eve and a doctor (Jon Seda) track down an ambulance that fell from the sky and retrieve the necessary supplies to save Josh’s life, but not before they are pursued by what appears to be a saber-toothed tiger.

Gavin has a vision of a familiar-looking boulder with a handprint on it in the sinkhole-world and realizes that he’s seen that same rock in the neighborhood. When he digs around it, he finds the wedding ring that Eve lost in the sinkhole-world, and at least part of the mystery becomes clear: The sinkhole opened up in the exact same area as Los Angeles, only it’s a version of it that existed thousands of years before. Eve and Josh are trapped in prehistoric Los Angeles. YES!

It’s too early to say whether La Brea will maintain a consistent internal logic (the biggest fault of Manifest), but there are so many reasons it’s a superior bad show, primarily because it knows what it is. It does not take itself too seriously — there’s a character high off his ass who cannot stop laughing (he’s the audience stand-in) — and not everyone speaks like an energy vampire. More importantly, La Brea has Natalie Zea, a great actress — both dramatic and comedic — who keeps the show from coming completely unglued. She’s also capable of beating the snot out of a CGI wolf with a piece of pavement when it threatens her son.

The great thing about the pilot is that it’s already starting to seed in additional mysteries. It’s clear that the government knows something that it’s not revealing. There’s also a mysterious man living in the prehistoric world who appears to have been there for years. Why does Gavin have these visions? Will we see dinosaurs? What’s up with the dead guy from the present in the sinkhole-world in the previews. Also, what is up with this?

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Stick around. We’ll figure this out together.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: NBC