×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Siberia

NBC summer thriller cleverly apes reality shows but takes too long setting up its twist

With:
Joyce Giraud, Johnny Wactor, Esther Anderson, Miljan Milosevic, Irene Yee, Berglind Icey, Sam Dobbins, Sabrina Akhmedova, Natalie Scheetz, Neeko O.J. Skervin, Victoria Hill, Anne-Marie Mueschke, Daniel Sutton, George Dickson, Tommy Mountain, Harpreet Turka, Jonathon Buckley.

As summer trips go, “Siberia” isn’t a bad idea, but the series already appears to be a victim of seriously bad timing — sentenced to the scheduling equivalent of you-know-where, what with CBS’ “Under the Dome” having just opened to big numbers in its timeslot. Viewed in a vaccum, the pilot takes too long getting started before planting its own mildly intriguing “Lost”-like mystery, and the thriller-like construct appears flimsy to support a 13-episode run. Still, it’s a credible acquisition with a chance of becoming dramatically interesting, albeit with little likelihood that many will survive as viewers long enough to find out.

The conceit, fairly cleverly disguised, is that the show looks and feels like a reality competition, where 16 international contestants are dropped into Siberia, put through the paces by a dashing host (played by L.A. radio personality Jonathon Buckley) and challenged to brave the elements, all for the opportunity to win $500,000.

Only it’s really a verite-style drama (comparisons have been made to “The Blair Witch Project,” although ABC’s short-lived “The River” might be more germane), where the “contestants” are actors. After the requisite flirting and forming alliances, something happens near the end (too near, frankly) that suggests all is not as it seems, and that the whole survival thing for this diverse band might be considerably thornier than advertised.

Written and directed by Matthew Arnold, the pilot does a nifty job of capturing the tics of such unscripted programs, from the convincing casting and first-person interviews to the shaky camerawork and overhead helicopter shots. In fact, the producers have done their mimicry a little too well; it’s easy to zone out on the blah, blah, blah of the contestant banter while waiting for the twist to actually happen.

Saving the credits for the end, “Siberia” appears to have wanted to leave some viewers a trifle confused, and given that the show is premiering on NBC in July with little advance buzz or promotion, it’s very possible people will wind up being tricked into believing it’s all real, or at least as “real” as this sort of exercise gets.

The Peacock has been fairly aggressive about using international acquisitions, a la “Crossing Lines,” to complement its summer reality fare, allowing the network to boast about a relatively high percentage of original programming. Yet if CBS’ experience is any guide, there’s something to be said for remaining a bit more selective, taking fewer bets and actually cultivating them.

By that measure, “Siberia” isn’t bad, but it does sort of amend an age-old question: If a reality-show-inspired thriller lands in the middle of a scheduling desert, does it make a sound?

Siberia

(Series; NBC, Mon. July 1, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Manitoba by Infinity Films Prod. in association with Sierra-Engine Television and Welldone Prod.

Crew: Executive producers, Michael Ohoven, Chris Philip, Slava Jakovleff, Doug McCallie, Matthew Arnold; co-executive producers, Joyce de Ohoven, Odin Shafer; supervising producer, Dan Katzman; producers, Phyllis Laing, James Gibb; writer-director, Arnold; camera, Michael Applebaum; production designer, Nick Ralbovsky; editor, Herbert James Winterstern; music, Corey Wallace; casting directors, Kerry Rock, Lori Stefaniuk. 60 MIN.

Cast: Joyce Giraud, Johnny Wactor, Esther Anderson, Miljan Milosevic, Irene Yee, Berglind Icey, Sam Dobbins, Sabrina Akhmedova, Natalie Scheetz, Neeko O.J. Skervin, Victoria Hill, Anne-Marie Mueschke, Daniel Sutton, George Dickson, Tommy Mountain, Harpreet Turka, Jonathon Buckley.

More TV

  • Jeremy Sisto, Ebonee Noel, Dick Wolf,

    Dick Wolf Plots Cross-Network Crossover Between CBS, NBC

    Veteran television producer Dick Wolf, best known for creating the “Law & Order” franchise, is eyeing a cross-network crossover between his CBS freshman procedural “FBI” or its in-the-works spinoff “FBI: Most Wanted” and one of his NBC shows, such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” or “Chicago P.D.” The decision whether to go with [...]

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco (C),

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union's 'L.A.’s Finest' Opens Monte Carlo TV Festival

    Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival on Friday at a glittering ceremony at the principality’s Grimaldi Forum attended by Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. The Hollywood actresses presented the French premiere of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest,” which has just been renewed for a second season. “You typically [...]

  • Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba'L.A.'s Finest'

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union Speak About Horrific 'L.A.’s Finest' On-Set Accident

    Actresses Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba spoke about how the horrific accident on the set of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest” affected them and the crew at the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival Saturday. They also paid tribute to the main victim of the incident, executive producer/co-showrunner Brandon Sonnier, whose leg was amputated below [...]

  • Emmys: How a Social Media Campaign

    How a Social Media Campaign to Game the Emmys Led to This Week's 'Block Voting' Scandal

    The Television Academy’s “block voting” controversy has quickly become the talk of Emmy season — and that appears to have been the org’s point. According to multiple insiders, the number of people disqualified from voting in this year’s competition is believed to be small, only around three members (out of nearly 25,000 members overall). But [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Drops Trailer for 'Veronica Mars' Revival (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Hulu dropped the official trailer for the “Veronica Mars” revival and HBO revealed more cast members for “Lovecraft Country.” FIRST LOOKS Hulu has dropped the official trailer for its revival of “Veronica Mars,” set to premiere on July 26. The series will bring back most of the original cast, including Kristen Bell, Jason [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content