Should we need a reminder that our current cultural obsession is death (see: zombies, vampires) and disappearance (see: “Gone Girl”), we need look no further than the primetime TV line-up.
Years after the successful run of “Touched by an Angel” on CBS and later, cult favorite “Six Feet Under“ on HBO, a new crop of eerie shows is emerging with the dead at the forefront. In direct competition with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is ABC’s “Resurrection“, a new show based on a Jason Mott novel, “The Returned,” and quite similar to a French series, Les Revenants (also called “The Returned”).
Whether “Resurrection” is worthy of watching, can be left to the critics, who seem decidedly split on the premise of people springing back to life (and their former lives) after dying. In the premiere, an eight-year-old boy named Jacob (Landon Gimenez), wakes up in a rice paddy in China without a clue of how he got there. An immigration officer named Marty (played by Omar Epps) traces the child back to Arcadia, Mo., and returns him to parents (played by Frances Fisher and Matt Craven) who tell him Jacob drowned 32 years earlier. Oops.
Yet after DNA tests prove that Jacob is indeed who he says he is, the parents warily and lovingly absorb Jacob back into their home. And so it begins.
Defying logic, I’d guess most people who’ve experienced the death of a loved one would give anything to have that lost person back in their lives. But the dead’s reentry into the living’s daily lives not only seems impossible, as it happens on “Resurrection,” it is also disruptive, scary, and obviously riddled with questions (most of which the newly alive people can’t answer).
Subtle details give this show a human element, like Jacob choosing to play Donkey Kong and his (weirdly brief) confusion at a touch screen. (It doesn’t hurt that Gimenez is adorable and plays the role with an innocent wisdom not often seen in kid actors).
As a primetime network show addressing death, “Resurrection” covers all the predictable bases (cute kid, concerned parents, pensive pastor, scary outlier) and the melodrama and clichés are a bit heavy handed. (I couldn’t help but wish the show were aired on cable to allow for more edge. Hear that, Showtime?)
But at its core, what the show does well is provoke and made this viewer wonder what it would be like to have people I’ve lost back in my life (my dad, my grandparents, friends gone too damn soon). Letting my mind wander over to that precarious and taboo place of disbelief set off emotions and a sense of wonder that, to me, is a success. And I was surprised. I’m the first to admit that primetime network television bores me to tears. “Resurrection” brought me to tears but for a completely different reason.
Cindy Augustine recently contributed an essay for Modern Loss on the topic of bad news, and writes frequently about food, beauty, travel, and other happy subjects. She lives and works in New York City. Follow her on Twitter and see her pictures on Instagram.