I caught the season premiere of USA Network’s Colony last week and it stars Josh Holloway as Sawyer. He has another name on the show, obviously, but he’s still Sawyer. He has the same stubble, the same “I just jogged for 3 minutes” film of forehead sweat and the same wardrobe. In this version he has a family instead of just stalking Kate, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same dude.
That should serve as a warning about this show.
One of the reasons people came out of Lost liking Sawyer is because he wasn’t the lead. Jack was. Human beings tend to struggle with a show when an amoral flitting d-bag is the lead. People can get behind “bad” leads. They adore “good” leads. Confused leads who aren’t sure what to do because they don’t have a basic ethical substructure and believable backstory? Audiences often have difficulty with that.
Unfortunately, that’s the premise of Colony. Sawyer is the head of a family in the Los Angeles block of the colony. Do we know what a colony is? Yeah, in general. But not on this show. They don’t tell us. We go through the whole pilot without it being mentioned. This is why people like me watch shows like this. So you don’t have to.
A couple quick inside baseball side notes:
1) When you see a movie or show that takes place in Los Angeles, picture everyone involved in its creation high-fiving. That’s because a show or film that takes place in LA shoots in LA. That means you get to sleep in your own bed. It means local, skilled crews and studios and never having to wait on equipment. It means predictability. It means when you shoot on location in someone’s house in Culver City, they get what that means and they don’t make a stink about everything. But most of all, in means you get to sleep in your bed, often with your partner, and actually see your children. If you ever wondered why so many things take place in or around Los Angeles, that’s why.
2) Shows and films that require a big reveal BANK THAT REVEAL for as long as they can. Jaws, Godzilla, King Kong, Jurassic Park and the like all hid the monster for as long as they possibly could because they’re making a simple bet: that your imagination is infinitely scarier than their CGI or Animatronic creation. That’s exactly the gamble. How long can they hold your attention before you demand to see the beast.
In Colony they wager on this premise and fail miserably. They lost me within the first minute. One minute.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s morning in the Sawyer house. He offers his two children some eggs. It’s all smiles. “You guys want eggs?” I haven’t shaved or washed in days but I’ll make you food? Yeah?
And they’re like “no, we’re good. Eggs are gross!”
Then he drops one egg and it breaks and he fucking flips out. He gets down on his knees and witnesses the broken egg and loses his shit. He punches things (from his knees). He tries to pick up the egg with his fingers. NOT THE SHELL. THE RAW, BROKEN EGG. Of course, that doesn’t work. That makes Mungo more angry and he grabs a deep shortening spoon. Of course, because when I need to get something off Mexican tile, I rush for a frisbee. THEN HE TRIES TO SWEEP THE EGG INTO HIS HAND WITH THE ROUNDED SPOON.
When that doesn’t work he hits some things and his wife comes out to see what’s wrong.
Her look alone mollifies him. Then she notices a photograph on the fridge. It’s cockeyed, so she rights it. It’s symbolic.
Sawyer notices her lingering too long on the photo.
And then she pats it and runs a finger longingly along the bottom of it. Because people do that. IN FUCKING SOAP OPERAS.
We notice there’s three children in the photo and only two children in the living room. That’s why Sawyer flipped out about the egg. He can’t even protect an egg! How can he protect a family??
When you see things like this, you know you’re not the target audience. People who enjoy steaming trashpiles of non-art are who this is designed for. In another living room, where they believe that mothers fondle pictures, maybe this goes over like gangbusters, but in my living room it’s laughable, and sadly, the show didn’t improve from there.
We come to find out that there’s a giant CGI metal wall around Los Angeles. We don’t know why. There are allusions to aliens, but no real talk. We hear about other areas, like the Santa Monica block, but we don’t see them. All we know is that there’s martial law, people are terrified, and you’re either with the government (a collaborator) or against them (the resistance). Which side will you pick? Which side will Sawyer pick? Which side will his wife pick?
That’s the problem. We have no idea what we’re picking for or against because we have no idea what the premise of the show is. Lost co-creator Carlton Cuse wrote and produced this and it makes you think that Damon Lindelof was the brains of that team and Carlton Cuse must have been the buddy he let tag along. Because Colony might already be cancelled. That’s how bad it is.
Josh Holloway isn’t a bad actor, per se, but I noticed with him that he plays up to his co-star. If the other person on screen is talented, Holloway is effective. If they aren’t, then he falls to their level. I didn’t watch The Walking Dead because I don’t do that, but the actress who played Sawyer’s wife, Sarah Wayne Callies, also played the role of Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead. I don’t know how she was on that show but her character just doesn’t work in Colony. To say that her performance was uninteresting is an understatement. She was difficult to believe. And that made Holloway’s character not work as well. The directing instincts from Juan Jose Campanella felt “wrong” somehow, then I looked him up and saw that he won awards for directing Argentinian daytime TV and that made more sense. For the first 16 minutes, whenever the lead actress said her husband’s name, she whispered it. I can’t even.
Colony was an iffy watch to start with, but I’ll watch anything that has the slight scent a sci-fi premise about it. I still don’t know if Colony does. Carlton Cuse’s pilot gambles that he’ll be able to hold my attention long enough so they don’t have to tell me what’s actually going on and in that gamble, they spectacularly overestimate the attention span of the average viewer. It was boring as hell. A complete waste of time, with the exception of Peter Jacobsen as Proxy Governor Alan Snyder. He’s good. Even if he thinks his name is “Schneider.” The best guy on the show doesn’t even pronounce his own name right. That’s kind of what this show is. A boring, uninteresting, uneventful mess. Shows like this continue to get made, but I’ll never be able to explain why. Pass go. Collect $200. Watch other things. This isn’t worth the watch and isn’t going to make it.