Bringing together elements also found in CBS’ “Extant” – life conception, science fiction and the threat of human extinction – Lifetime’s “The Lottery” is more political thriller than anything else, a series that does little to establish its place or time while setting up a high-stakes drama centered around two seemingly overmatched protagonists against the wheels of government. Created by Timothy J. Sexton, who wrote the similarly dystopian feature “Children of Men,” the premiere is enough to whet the appetite, though a wholehearted endorsement would be, pardon the expression, premature.
The concept is certainly provocative: a global fertility crisis, followed by the last birth of children – a mere six of them – in 2019. Now 2025, the world is panicked, realizing that unless humans regain the ability to reproduce, they’re destined to die out as a species.
Enter Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton), who has somehow managed to fertilize 100 embryos; and Kyle (Michael Graziadei), the father of one of those aforementioned last half-dozen tykes, who is treated like a national treasure. Alison’s breakthrough, however, is seen by the government – and especially by a ruthless official (Martin Donovan) – as being too good to leave in the hands of a private individual. Meanwhile, the President (Yul Vazquez), prodded by his do-gooder chief of staff (Athena Karkanis), agrees to a lottery, giving all eligible women a chance of being the chosen ones to incubate those precious eggs.
Soon enough, Alison realizes she’s in danger, and Kyle is seeking to escape with his kid, leaving both the doctor and dad facing formidable odds, to say the least.
It all moves quickly, albeit not ADD fast enough to obscure what’s missing – namely, any sense that it’s 2025. While that might sound like a quibble, given the rate at which technology is changing things, it’s a little bit off that every gadget in “The Lottery,” from the phones to the cars, looks like it just rolled off a 2014 assembly line.
That said, the premise does raise a vast assortment of possibilities, while leaving its ostensible heroes understandably overwhelmed – and unsure, somewhat eerily, of who they can trust.
Ultimately, there’s more ambition in the concept than ingenuity in the execution. Yet for Lifetime, the series does appear to represent something of a creative gamble, if only because it’s not as easily pigeon-holed as some of its other scripted fare into the channel’s demographic profile.
Those qualities, frankly, foster some skepticism about the series’ survival prospects in the channel’s Petri dish. Still, there’s enough to stoke interest in the pilot to hope “The Lottery” can first become pretty good, and then have a chance to get lucky.