×
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

  • Al Burton

    Al Burton, 'Jeffersons' and 'Diff’rent Strokes' Producer, Dies at 91

    Television producer and executive Al Burton, known for his work on “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” died Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, California. He was 91. Burton leaves behind a six-decade legacy of hit television shows that also included “One Day at a Time,” “Silver Spoons,” “Square Pegs” and “Facts of Life.” However, long [...]

  • Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal

    Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal at WarnerMedia

    Dwayne Wade is bouncing his way into WarnerMedia’s court. The retired NBA All Star has signed a multi-faceted, multi-year deal with the company, including a development deal via his 59th & Prairie Entertainment production banner. Part of the deal sees Wade sign on as a commentator at Turner Sports. He is set to make appearances [...]

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

  • EVIL is a psychological mystery that

    CBS Renews 'Evil,' Orders Full Seasons of Four Other Freshman Shows

    CBS is doubling down on all its new shows. The network has renewed “Evil” for a second season, and handed out full-season orders to its other four freshman series, namely “All Rise,” “Carol’s Second Act,” “The Unicorn,” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” “Evil” is set to conclude its 13-episode first season (creators Michelle and Robert King [...]

  • Jamie Lee Curtis

    Jamie Lee Curtis to Produce Military Drama With Put Pilot Order at Fox

    Jamie Lee Curtis is teaming up with April Fitzsimmons and Berlanti Productions for a drama project that has received a put pilot order at Fox. Titled “Chain of Command,” the one-hour project follows a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn’t [...]

  • Michael MannLACMA: Art and Film Gala,

    TV News Roundup: Michael Mann to Direct and Executive Produce HBO Max's 'Tokyo Vice'

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO Max names MIchael Mann as a director and executive producer of “Tokyo Vice” and Chip and Joanna Gaines announce the first original series coming to the couple’s Magnolia Network. DATES Netflix announced a six-episode docuseries centered on Nasty Cherry, the latest all-female group signed to Charli XCX’s label will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content