A cut-rate Canadian acquisition, “Between” is an utterly ho-hum addition to Netflix’s original lineup, diving into another conspiracy-driven premise and indifferent assortment of young characters. The main draw, such as it is, should be the presence of former “iCarly” co-star Jennette McCurdy as one of the survivors in the small town of Pretty Lake, where the over-21 population is being decimated by a strange outbreak, and everyone else has been quarantined. All that happens in the busy opening hour, which appears to have exhausted most of its budget on the darkened blood that spontaneously oozes from the soon-to-be deceased.
Part of the problem in the first act of this six-episode order, written by Michael McGowan and directed by “24” alum Jon Cassar, is that it spends almost no time introducing the players before all hell starts breaking loose, as adults abruptly begin to keel over. Yet there’s hardly a sense that anyone has fully grasped the dire implications of what’s transpiring, although McGowan has helpfully included one teenage hacker who conveniently sifts through government computers and provides exposition regarding the media-buyer-like demographic bias of the mysterious pathogen/disease/tired plot device.
Just to add a degree-of-difficulty to her particular plight, McCurdy’s Wiley is about to deliver a baby, although the identity of the father remains a closely guarded secret. Elsewhere, there are conflicts built around a young guy in prison and a pair of brothers who get into it with one of the town’s wealthy residents, neither of which really promises to add up to much.
In some respects, there’s an “Under the Dome”-type vibe to the situation – especially with those tall, barbed-wire fences that immediately sprout up – with a “Lord of the Flies” wrinkle. That all has to be taken on faith, however, given the messiness of the premiere, which races about introducing undistinguished characters whose subplots have yet to connect. (Tellingly, McCurdy is the only cast member listed under the “starring” tab on Netflix’s press site.)
Netflix is obviously seeking to offer a diversified menu of original programming, and “Between” fits squarely in the youth/thriller basket. That said, the service doesn’t do much to burnish the reputation it has labored to build by fleshing out its offerings with a program for which cost – or rather, the lack of it – seems to be the primary motivation.
Granted, this could grow into something with more depth than the first salvo suggests, and Netflix will use the show as a kind of experiment: Instead of its usual dump-everything-at-once model, episodes will become available at a specific time each Thursday, much like a linear network.
Nevertheless, the general look and tone don’t incubate much of a desire to slip back behind the show’s well-guarded walls. In fact, after one visit to Pretty Lake, there’s a pretty strong inclination to let the fresh-faced inhabitants, as the press release puts it, “fend for themselves.”