TV Review: ‘Resurrection’


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

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.

Popular on Variety

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

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content