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An Enjoyable Series But Not Without Its Flaws

  • Jun 10, 2010

Love it or hate it, Lost was responsible for inspiring a whole host of science fiction laced network television dramas throughout most of the 2000’s.  The fall of 2005 saw a surge of similarly themed programs such as Threshold, Invasion, and of course Surface being reviewed here.

Unlike Lost, Surface lasted only one season (15-episodes), all of which are contained within the Universal Studios 4-disc DVD boxset.

The show seems to liberally apply the term “Spielbergian suspense” in describing its themes and tones; a comparison that is fairly accurate early on but steadily degenerates as the show progresses to include some far reaching conspiracy theories and science that is often questionable at best.

This primetime drama actually uses several characters (of different age groups and parts of the world), all sharing similar encounters with an odd aquatic creature, to weave its prose. In a nutshell it works pretty well from the get-go.  In fact the pilot is, in my opinion, the strongest offering of the entire series; which grows steadily more unbelievable with each episode subsequent.  Add some government conspiracies, a few hundred twists and turns and a plot that walks the line from ambitious to preposterous with annoying regularity and have a pretty clear idea of what Surface brings to the proverbial table.

Created by twin brother writer-producer-directors Josh and Jonas Pate, the show stars lanky Lake Bell (could a more perfect name for a show about water monsters have been chosen? I think not) as protagonist oceanographer Laura Daughtery who discovers some odd formations on the ocean floor.  Meanwhile, a Louisiana-based insurance salesman, Rich (Jay R. Ferguson), witnesses the death of his brother by a massive marine creature, and finally 14-year-old Miles (Carter Jenkins) who, in addition to perpetually needing a haircut, raises one of the mysterious specimens after hatching it from an egg in his parents’ aquarium.

Throughout all this, scientists, national security agents and high school high-jinx abound. In fact I’m a subscriber to the theory that some of the show’s most genuine (and humorous) moments stem from the school-kids’ antics rather than the heavy-handedness that surrounds many of the adult story threads.

About my biggest complaint comes in the form of the oft-unrealistic science/ physics.  I realize this is only supposed to be entertainment and all but certain threads are so unrealistic that the corresponding realism throughout the entire series suffers (the whole descending to 5000 feet in an oil drum then ascending in a mater of minutes without getting the bends is just one of dozens of moments that could make a viewer with even only a moderate IQ cringe).

Additionally, by the final episode of the show, you get the distinct feeling that the writers simply lost their way as to what made the show so enjoyable initially.  As the tale got bigger, richer and more-revealed, it naturally lost its personable moments and while it never made it to a second season (making such concerns moot), it seems to me that the show would have followed a very different path from the first season; one dealing with apocalyptic themes and humans with near-superhero abilities.

In the end the viewer comes away from the Surface experience with mixed emotions.  It certainly showed promise, especially in the beginning, the likes of which I would consider vastly superior to the drudgery of Lost in fact.  However, things do deteriorate as the show progresses and by the time all is said and done, the initial feeling that it was a travesty not to renew the series after its first season pretty much dissipates and is replaced with a truly odd sort of twisted logic: Is it possible for once the network execs got it right?
An Enjoyable Series But Not Without Its Flaws

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June 11, 2010
JR - love the way you write! Do you write for - gasp! - print paper reviews per chance? Heck, you might even get a by-line and money - what a concept, eh? Wonderful review, will have to search for others that you have written. I joined LUNCH in Feb. of this year, just as I started back in college - and haven't been on since. Though have been "following" Trashie's reviews and any comments, etc., he received. Finally had to make an entire file just for LUNCH - my inbox was overloading :-). Now I finally have time to DO something on here -- and he and Christy have left. (the mascara is dripping down my cheeks - oh, wait, just remembered, don't wear that multi-billion dollar propaganda sold to us by the 'beauty industry" - must be soot from the brush fires near my house...). CHEERS! Conn
June 11, 2010
Hey Conn: Thanks for the feedback- I do actually write in print full time. Very astute observation. You seem to have a pretty darn nice style yourself. I'll send you a friend invite and will be following you on here as well. I'm feeling your sardonic tone, great stuff! Thanks again for the feedback.
June 10, 2010
I used to follow this when it first came out on television. Honestly, I was drawn to it because of the actress (she was hot) , it got pretty interesting towards the end but unfortunately it was cacelled after season 1. I think this would be fit into Orlok's FANTASY COMMUNITY; and if he won't take it, it is welcome in mine LOL!
June 11, 2010
Woop, hell yeah bro- Lake Bell is the actress I believe you (and I) were watching with great interest. I'll be glad to send it your way- Hype Community I presume?
June 11, 2010
Sure, man. I love Lake Bell. I even watched "Over her Dead Body" with Eva Longoria because of her LOL!
June 11, 2010
William, I find your obsession inspiring. lol - on it's way brother.
June 11, 2010
I even saw "What Happens in Vegas" with Lake Bell and Cameron Diaz LOL! I like chicks who has a different kind of appeal.. :) Thanks, man.
June 11, 2010
Sorry, unless Angelina Jolie were in either of those movies, NOTHING could make me watch them! UGH...Does Cameron Diaz HAVE appeal? I fully appreciate women and men - don't have societies' hangups about whom I'm supposed to "like" or "not like" - but sssoo don't see any appeal in Diaz (and if a woman doesn't have curves, doesn't impress me too much...).
June 11, 2010
WTH? I wrote an entire piece, comparing this to INVASION and how the writer's strike hurt the genre ... did it end up somewhere else? ugh, too tired to do again, at least right now. LATER... CHEERS...Conn
June 11, 2010
Conn: I hope you locate it as I just ordered Invasion last night believe it or not. I missed a lot of these shows on their prime time runs and have been making up for lost time by touring the DVD box sets. Would love to check out your comparison.
More Surface reviews
review by . December 20, 2009
We're running through Roku and Amazon's catalog like a demonic ferret on speed, simply because there's nothing on TV - which I shell out $60 a month for - especially since everything is paused for next year. Surface was recommended based upon our excessive (obsessive) watching of Heroes, and in some respects I can't believe I missed it on TV when it happened.      Like all these shows, it gets you addicted through a series of really improbable but extremely delicious situations. …
About the reviewer

Ranked #9
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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Some critics labeled the weekly, hour-long series Surface as NBC's spin on the ABC hit Lost, though in fact it more closely resembled the theatrical feature The Abyss. The basic plotline involved a curious new form of sea life that had appeared variously in the South Antarctic Sea, San Diego harbor, the coast of Monterey, and the Gulf of Mexico. The first person to see this phenomenon was oceanographer Laura Daughtery Carstarphen (Lake Bell), from the vantage point of a bathysphere 5,000 feet below the ocean's surface. Others taking a special interest in the strange life forms included a CIA man, a sinister foreign scientist, a pair of fisherman, and a couple of teenagers, one of whom brought the warm, friendly looking creature's egg onto dry land, hiding it in his mom's fish tank, where it promptly hatches and a creature pops out. As the series' multitude of story arcs were played out, a number of disturbing questions were raised: What is this odd sea creature? Where did it come from? The answers, of course, were not immediately forthcoming, but one thing was clear regarding the creature: First impressions were very, very, very deceiving!!! Featured in the cast were Rade Serbedzija as Dr. Aleksander Cirko, Jay R. Ferguson as Richard Owen, Carter Jenkins as Miles, Leighton Meester as Savannah, and Bobby Coleman as Jesse. Created by Josh and Jonas Pate and originally titled Fathom (until another producer staked a prior claim on that moniker!), Surface debuted on September 19, ...
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