You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘American Odyssey’

Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli, Jake Robinson, Jim True-Frost, Sadie Sink, Omar Ghazaoui, Nate Mooney, Elena Kampouris, Daniella Pineda, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Treat Williams.

NBC describes “American Odyssey” as “’Traffic’-like,” which might explain the lack of inspiration permeating this multi-pronged drama, which, much like sibling USA’s “Dig,” hinges on a vast (and tedious) conspiracy. The intersecting threads involve a U.S. soldier in North Africa, a corporate lawyer and an Occupy-type political activist, each embroiled in a monstrous plot reaching up and into government. First-rate casting — including Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli and Treat Williams — can’t obscure the been-there, seen-that sensation, which doesn’t spur much curiosity about how these tentacles connect or offer much hope the show will last long enough to find out.

Friel (“Pushing Daisies”) plays the soldier, Sgt. Odelle Ballard, who while on a mission in Mali pursuing a wanted terrorist stumbles across computer files revealing a major corporation is providing money to the Jihadists. When she offers an inkling of what she has learned to higher-ups — namely, a senior officer played by Williams — a kill squad is dispatched (under the command of “Lost’s” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), forcing Ballard to go on the run while she’s presumed dead by her husband (“The Wire’s” Jim True-Frost) and family.

Meanwhile, a New York attorney (Facinelli) working on a merger with the same company makes his own potentially dangerous discovery, and the aforementioned activist (Jake Robinson) becomes privy to information about a possible cover-up related to Ballard’s reported death.

There is, admittedly, quite a lot going on in the handsomely mounted pilot — written by Kay Foster, Adam Armus and director Peter Horton — which rapidly cuts back and forth among these stories and locales. Yet even with the cynicism engendered by Halliburton-like conglomerates during the Iraq war, “American Odyssey” (an 11th-hour name change from “Odyssey,” which probably sounded too Greek) feels strained, tired and devoid of nuance, related less to the disenchantment associated with what’s happening today than the paranoid political thrillers of the 1970s.

Nor does the series gain strength over four subsequent episodes, which gradually advance each of the stories while making the protagonists look particularly overmatched against their shadowy adversaries. Ballard, meanwhile, is subjected to an extended, repetitive, extremely violent and heavily subtitled ordeal that feels like a simple-minded version of “Homeland,” surrounding her with nefarious characters seemingly plucked from a catalogue of evil Arabs.

The show’s best hope, actually, might be divine intervention, hoping some of the potentially beatific ratings from “A.D.: The Bible Continues” — a very different show, even though both are at least partly shot in Morocco — rubs off. It’s worth noting, too, NBC’s spotty track record in paying off these sorts of elaborate “Trust us, we know where this is going” dramas, having failed to resolve “Crisis,” “The Event” or (most recently) “Allegiance.”

While sins of the past shouldn’t be visited on new series, “Odyssey” is complicated enough that viewers are to be forgiven for harboring reservations about getting hooked on a serialized drama that, despite a name that denotes a long and perilous journey, looks conspicuously short on fuel.

TV Review: 'American Odyssey'

(Series; NBC, Sun. April 5, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York and Morocco by Fabrik Entertainment, and Red Arrow Entertainment in association with Universal Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Adam Armus, Kay Foster, Peter Horton, Simon Maxwell, Mikkel Bondesen, Henrik Bastin, Kristen Campo; co-executive producer, Amy Kaufman; supervising producer, Julia Ruchman; producers, Devin Rich, Peter McAleese; director, Horton; writers, Armus, Foster, Horton; camera, Yaron Orbach, Balazs Bolygo; production designer, Kristi Zea; editor, Dan Zimmerman; music, ; casting, Linda Lowy, David Caparelliotis, Dan Hubbard, Salah Benchegra. 60 MIN.

Cast: Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli, Jake Robinson, Jim True-Frost, Sadie Sink, Omar Ghazaoui, Nate Mooney, Elena Kampouris, Daniella Pineda, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Treat Williams.

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    'The First' Canceled at Hulu After One Season

    Hulu has grounded the space exploration drama “The First” after one season, Variety has confirmed. The series hailed from Beau Willimon and starred Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in Penn’s first regular television role. “The First” was set in the near future and followed the first human mission to Mars. Hulu gave the show a straight-to-series order in [...]

  • Nicole Maines Supergirl Trans Hollywood Portrait

    TV Roundup: 'Supergirl' Drops First Look at Nicole Maines as TV's First Trans Superhero

    In today’s TV News Roundup, The CW releases a first look at Nicole Maines on “Supergirl” and Variety unveils an exclusive look at Gabriel Iglesias’ new comedy special.  FIRST LOOKS More Reviews Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A Real Good Kid' TV Review: 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes' truTV has released the first trailer [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. More Reviews Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A [...]

  • Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most

    Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most Outrageous Moments

    It is perhaps only fitting that two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, one of the most high-profile fraudulent failures in history, would arrive during the same week — a fitting cap on a tragicomedy of errors that, as both films outline in excruciating detail, unfolded like a slow-motion plane crash in the spring of [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • annapurna logo

    Annapurna TV Taps Amazon's Patrick Chu as Senior VP, Promotes Ali Krug

    Annapurna TV has brought on Patrick Chu as the division’s new senior VP. Prior to that, he had served as an executive for Amazon in drama, production, and development, where he oversaw small-screen adaptations of “Hanna” and “The Hunt.” He will develop and produce new TV projects, focusing on drama, at his new role at [...]

  • Emmys: Why The TV Academy Finally

    Why the TV Academy Finally Ended Emmys DVD Madness, and Who Might Benefit the Most

    Three years ago, Netflix overwhelmed Television Academy members by sending out a 20-pound shipment of DVD screeners. It was an exercise in excess, as insiders suggested that the streamer spent as much as $4 million to produce and ship the multiple boxes. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos hated the idea of sending out these [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content