TV Review: ‘Resurrection’

The Trip to Bountiful

Resurrection” has such a provocative concept and a well-cast pilot that the temptation is to hang on hopefully for the ride, albeit with a measure of skepticism regarding how much life, renewed or otherwise, the producers can mine from the premise. Dealing with thorny issues of religion and faith while wrapped in a central existential mystery, the show’s real challenge will be how long it can explore the notion of a child returning from the dead, unchanged, 32 years later, and keep it dramatically contained, given what that would truly mean in today’s wired, digitally connected world.

Having been given an Oscar-telecast push, this is one of those ABC projects that deserves ample praise for its conceptual daring, but often winds up disappointing in the execution. Fortunately, a second hour somewhat broadens the show’s riddle, while indicating that any answers will be disgorged slowly. Ah well, humanity has waited this long for the mystery of an afterlife to be resolved; what’s a few more seasons?

The series opens with an innocent-looking boy (Landon Gimenez) awakening, inexplicably, in the middle of China. After the U.S. feds get involved, the silent kid gradually leads them toward the heartland, where the immigration agent (Omar Epps) assigned to the case brings him to the home of Henry and Lucille Langston (Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher, both splendid as usual), who inform the agent that their son, Jacob, died 32 years ago.

Questions arise. How can this child be theirs? Will the family be able to accept him back into their lives? And if they’ve ever read or seen Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” will they feel compelled to sleep with one eye open?

These, along with the more obvious how and why, are the most personal and probing aspects of the series, based on a book by Jason Mott and adapted by Aaron Zelman (“Damages”). Yet there are countless other threads to consider, beginning with how the wider world would respond to reports of a genuine resurrection, and a clamoring for the boy in media that would practically force him and his family into seclusion.

Moreover, the series begins to plant the seeds of a cold-case subplot regarding how Jacob died that risks dragging the focus off the faith-shaking issue of someone returning from the dead into a more prosaic mystery.

In other words, “Resurrection” could go in a lot of different directions. Yet the expansiveness of that palette is also littered not only with abundant internal creative traps, but also external ones: The show’s road could be complicated by running afoul of faith-based groups who are easily riled by mainstream entertainment — or, conversely, be so mindful about not offending as to lobotomize those areas that make the pilot so intriguing.

As is, Smith and Fisher deliver heartfelt moments as the confused parents, grappling with reopened wounds and other grown children to consider. The show also feels inherently commercial, in the way “Lost” initially was, as opposed to something like the considerably creepier French series “The Returned,” which recently found a subtitled U.S. home on Sundance Channel.

If “Resurrection” fulfills even half its potential, it could easily become the most compelling drama on an ABC lineup that has become almost comically soapy — with series like “Scandal” and “Revenge” lustily embracing their camp qualities.

Unlike Jacob, however, one fatal step and the chances of a second shot at things are slim. And while it’s never wise to become too attached to a fledgling series, here’s a small prayer that doesn’t happen.

TV Review: 'Resurrection'

(Series; ABC, Sun. March 9, 9 p.m.)


Filmed in Georgia by Plan B and Brillstein Entertainment in association with ABC Studios.


Executive producers, Aaron Zelman, Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, JoAnn Alfano, Dan Attias, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Jon Liebman; producer, Lynn Raynor; director, Charles McDougall; writer, Zelman; based on the book “The Returned” by Jason Mott; camera, Terry Stacey; production designer, Clark Hunter; editor, Henk Van Eeghen; music, Blake Neely; casting, Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood, Jennifer Smith. 60 MIN.


Omar Epps, Frances Fisher, Matt Craven, Devin Kelley, Mark Hildreth, Samaire Armstrong, Sam Hazeldine, Landon Gimenez, Kurtwood Smith

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  1. pon_de says:

    This sshow is horribly executed! Instead of putting a plausible spin on what would happen if people really came back from the dead, its an hour of slow molasses “hmm” moments mixed with uninteresting side sstories. Two episodes in and I’m still waiting for someone/anyone to say the obvious “this isn’t possible so WTF is going on?!”. Lazy writing here to assume we’ll be so intrigued by the dead coming back that we’ll overlook such flat emotions. This is why The Walking Dead is so successful. Of course zombies are impossible. But the horrors that people must commit to survive are totally realistic. LOST was also much better at executing this vibe because people didn’t just survive a plane crash and act like it’s completely normal. Literally no one seems thrown by the idea of dead people comingback to life under mysterious circumstances

  2. pk says:

    I’ll get right to the point about this show Two words: Really bad!

  3. Mike one says:

    Soapy is the word for this entire series of, so far, two shows….I am moments for the ‘reveal’ of the casket opening annnnd…. There you have it, no reveal at all, day of our lives eh?….. BS, total BULL HOCKEY. This is going to take two years to get to the point and I have neither the time nor patience for a thin premise nor a poor effort at writing. If there were a sustainable story here, we’d know by now what the heck this show is about, but we don’t. There’s only one conclusion… This show is going no where fast and will not last… What the heck, it was only a thin book to begin with….. ABC, how desparate ARE you guys anyway to allow something this vaporous on the air in the first place??…. Do you even think beyond the first 6 shows anymore?

  4. Jim Pawlak says:

    Clark Hunter designed the pilot. Paul D. Kelly is the Production Designer for the series.

  5. Stacy says:

    I have lost loved ones in my immediate family yet I can still enjoy this show. I agree that you might need therapy to help you through the stages of grieving. This show does have some flaws with the reurrected family still being able to live in the same town. I would think they would have to go into hiding right away. I say if a show is even slightly intriguing you should give it a chance by watching it 3 times. So far I think the show is offering the right amt of balance between family drama and mystery. It would be nice to have some past backstories on the people in the town similar to “Lost.”

  6. OnlyGoodWritingWillSaveYou says:

    I haven’t seen the French ‘The Returned’, and I am aware of the what-is and what-isnt basis of this ABC series. But honestly, I got as far as the end of episode 2 and just wished for the time back. I’ve not seen something crash this quickly before. To the ABC employees on here desperately trying to save it – forget it, it’s another Under The Dome. Let it burn and go and do something good.

  7. erunner says:

    I am a devout Christian and I love good television period. What I don’t enjoy are broad brush caricatures. I especially enjoy science fiction as the genre has always been a great vehicle for excellent story telling while exploring questions that we all have. I approach television and movies for entertainment and the first episode of Resurrection has my curiosity piqued. I hope the writers are able to pull this off.

  8. Charlie says:

    You people are pathetic.. it is a show to be watched by viewers who want to watch it. I have lost family, friends, pets, and fellow soldiers.. yet I enjoy the show. I understand it is fiction.. and the fact that people come back to life in this small town.. doesn’t affect me at all. It’s mysterious in some ways.. a puzzle to figure out. Questions to be answered. I admit.. I did wonder how he was able to play with a phone.. but a kid who is 8..through trial and error can accomplish many tasks. The clothes thing.. yes he’s wore the same stuff for days.. but is that really ruining the series?

    This is why I hate reading reviews on anything visual. If it’s software..hardware.. etc.. then I’ll tend to believe those unless I feel the user was a complete idiot. When it comes to tv shows.. movies.. etc.. I’d rather use my own opinion. If you liked The Returned better, then watch that..

    In my opinion, it’s a good show and I’m looking forward to episode 2 tonight.

  9. The Returned aside, Resurrection is just a series with an intriguing concept but weak writing. It’s not flat out terrible, by any means, just not nearly as gripping as a series with this set-up should be. My review:

  10. gatecrashjon says:

    Saw the trailer to this and was very disappointed. I love the french series The Returned. I thought this was the american remake. It lacks the dark and eerie vibe of the french series.

  11. jim says:

    Having just seen the brilliant “Les revenents”, it`s hard to not draw comparisons, even though the shows producers say they are not really related. But how can you not when the premise is initially so similar?
    I sat through this pilot and it misses the mark on almost every level. It`s the same old US network TV fare of assume your audience is dumb with a 5 second attention span and work your way down from there. There`s just nothing there, no substance, the characters are completely dull and uninvolving.
    Not really surprised though. How could the networks make something that even came close to the French series? Not in this world.

  12. Lois McKenna says:

    The writers gave no attention to detail. Among the many glaring errors that bothered me the most…. The kid was wearing the same red tee shirt he woke up in for at least 4 days. During his trip home from China, during his hospital stay (no hospital gown), and later going to church and still wearing the same red shit! Ridiculous. He was unaware of modern technology yet was able to use a cell phone like a teckie the very first time he saw one. Except to say that his mother looked different, he was silent about the very different world that surrounded him. And the reaction of his parents not instantaneously recognizing him despite the circumstances made no sense.

    • Dave Reason says:

      He was NOT able to use a cell phone like a techie. It was given to him with Donkey Kong ready to play. DK is a game from 32 years ago.
      You are out of touch and should not be commenting on things you do not understand.

      • Stacey says:

        Dave Reason- how about the fact that the cell screen was queued up with Donkey Kong, but the boy was still able to find a notepad app and write “arcadia” on the screen? I wondered how he knew to do that even though cell phones didn’t exist when he died.

  13. cateringdiva says:

    loved it! i’ve learned in life you can’t please everyone ABC keep the excitement coming

  14. druxmanworks says:

    The show is certainly well done, but I don’t think I’m going to watch it again, since it appears to be headed for the “convoluted”.

    I kept feeling sorry for the parents (Smith and Fisher). They were apparently “at peace” with their tragedy of 32 years earlier, but now the old wounds have been reopened. I don’t suppose that this will end well for them.

  15. D Shannon says:

    Great show. We all wish for more time with those who have passed. This provides a glimpse of mystery and intrigue.

  16. Josiah Benz says:

    Not for nothing…this show is fiction. It’s intended on being fiction. The story line is the unoriginal ‘what if..’ scenario we have seen over and over again. It is not making a mockery of those who have lost, it is simply saying – hey…what if? I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve seen pain. I am not at all put off by this piece of fiction any more than I am put off by the Bible…it is a piece of fiction in which someone special was resurrected. I don’t have cable and do not intend on watching this garbage for a few years when it decides to hit Netflix…however give it a rest with all the yelling about it being in bad taste. It is fiction.

  17. Al says:


    • kris says:

      This is taken directly from a fiction book. I can’t imagine your pain but clearly you need counseling. We yet are not sure what Avenue they are going to take this, biblically , zombies , time travel , who knows. I love this show. To me it gives belief that we really will see our loved ones one day. Sorry for your loss but blessing out a show is not construction healing.

  18. Carol says:

    Wow! This program is really hitting the bottom of the barrel. Clearly none of the writers have ever lost someone close to them. This show needs to be cancelled. Show some respect at a sacred moment not try and profit off of grief. Pathetic.

  19. Sara B says:

    This show is promising and I am one of millions who is eagerly looking forward to a televisin show that brngs back great writing, compelling and meaningful entertainment and depth to American life.

    • cateringdiva says:

      ii agree

      • Bern says:

        Jim, You made your point. Please allow people who really liked the show (like me) to voice their opinions without your “totally shallow” replies. I’ll bet you think “Walking Dead” is a novel approach to TV…..

      • jim says:

        But it really isn`t great writing and has no depth at all. The way the return of the first child was dealt with (especially with the parents) in the French series was so masterfully done for something which is so out of this world. The acting was totally believable and handled with dignity for such a strong subject matter.
        None of that was on show in this US rehash. Totally shallow.

  20. Donna Cramer says:

    Being a new W I D O W, this show is in such bad taste! Death with false hope for all who have suffered through real life DEATH. So disappointed in ABC for promoting DEATH, & using tv as a front row seat, for promoting false hope! Did anyone ever stop to think about the emotional side of this for us widows who truly know the truth that… DEATH sucks.
    Donna Cramer, Simi Ca

    • kris says:

      Don’t watch episodes of ghost whisperer if you can’t handle this

    • Dave Reason says:

      Donna: No one is forcing you to watch the show.

    • Jessica says:

      Death DOES suck! I lost my dad suddenly in an accident 10 years ago. One second, he was at my house picking up his Valentine chocolates, and 2 hours later he was dead. Death sucks. But I don’t think the show is promoting DEATH as much as it is promoting the WISH that all of us have that we could have one more moment with our loved one. You and I both know that we would give anything for one more moment with our loved ones. And we know we cannot have that moment. But (at least for me) it’s nice to fantasize about “what if it happened – what if he came back?” … That’s what this show is about. I know that since you are a new widow that it is hard for you to see because it’s barely real that he is not still here. If you need someone to talk to, please email me @

  21. Dora says:

    Sorry, I don’t dare invest any time into an ABC series. They like to cancel them too quickly, leaving viewers without closure.

    • Karole Soto says:

      IT IS FICTION that is not a bad thing, the bad thing is the pain of losing someone we love that never leaves us, I lost my mother, I know the heartache of missing her and the joy of remembering special moments.. I enjoyed the show, It did make me think of mom and it would be nice to see her again but then there are so many things in LIFE that make me think of her and that’s not a bad thing. I will watch to see where they take this story line

  22. Bella says:

    Copycat of The Returned from the Sundance channel hardly an original concept, The returned is going into I believe season 3 in the Fall it is up there with the likes of The Walking Dead and The Bates Motel eerily creepy and stellar acting with amazing writers and it’s also on a network that can push the envelope a bit don’t see how ABC can compete with these cable shows.

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