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Series premiere: Defying Gravity

In series debut, summer 2009, television on 08/02/2009 at 10:25 am

Series name
Defying Gravity

Debuts
Sunday, Aug. 2 at 9-11 p.m. ET on CTV and ABC

Regularly airs
Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV and ABC and Fridays (starting Aug. 7) at 8 p.m. ET on Space

Premise
About 40 years into the future, four men and four women of the International Space Organization leave Earth for a six-year mission aboard the Antares. The first major destination in this farthest-reaching tour of space will be Venus, but half of the action will be flashback, laying out the connections between the characters and revealing a mystery. But don’t go thinking this is a hardcore sci-fi kinda show. It’s from one of the creative people behind hospital soap Grey’s Anatomy. There is ridiculous sex, soap opera plot devices hammered into a drama template, ponderous voiceovers, overwrought use of pop singles and a couple of easily identifiable standins for Grey’s characters, with more to come later.

Here’s the trailer

Primary cast and crew
Ron Livingston (Office Space, Sex and the City, Band of Brothers) is Donner, veteran of an earlier mission to Mars that ended badly. Donner is Derek. Also an engineer.

Laura Harris (24) is Zoe. She is Meredith. Is she ever.

Florentine  Lahme (Impact) is Nadia, the pilot. I haven’t pegged her Grey’s counterpart yet. Soon.

Malik Yoba (New York Undercover) is Ted. He’s married to the space agency boss. Jury is also out on his Grey’s character. He doesn’t say much in the first two hours.

Christina Cox (Blood Ties) is Jen, flight biologist. She’s kind of a Christina. She’s also the Canadian on this international crew.

Paula Garces (The Shield) is Paula, pilot and onboard documentary producer.

Dylan Taylor (House Party) is Wass, the physicist. I suppose he’s a kind of George.

Eyal Podell (24) is Mintz, the medical officer and psychiatrist.

Andrew Airlie (Reaper) is Mike, the grumpy mission control commander. Watch your back here.

Karen LeBlanc (ReGenesis) is Eve, scientist.

Zahf Paroo (Battlestar Galactica) is Ajay, engineer.

Maxim Roy (MVP) is Claire, flight surgeon.

Ty Olsson (Men in Trees) is Rollie, Jen’s husband and mission commander.

James Parriott (Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty) and Michael Edelstein (Desperate Housewives) are exec producers and Ron French (Battlestar Galactica) is producer.

But what do I know anyway? After having seen the pilot I …
I could have sworn that I just watched Grey’s Anatomy in space. But Grey’s has its moments, so I’ll keep tuning in for a while a least. The soapy elements are, however, hard to swallow at some points. There is a sex scene that made me laugh out loud. Not the result they were probably looking for. Hardcore sci-fi geeks will probably be enraged by some of the more airy-fairy plot points, which I won’t spoil here but suffice to say the people in charge of this missing are not ruled only by logic and the need for financial accountability. On a more karmic note, and karma gets trotted out a lot in the voiceovers and elsewhere, it’s too bad that this sci-fi drama got the greenlight over the superior Virtuality, which was dropped as a series but aired earlier this summer as a standalone movie. It too involved onboard shtupping, documentary reports broadcast back to Earth and an overarching mystery. It was also crunchy hard science and so not everyone’s cup of tea, though I’d rather that than Defying Gravity’s waffling between sci-fi and soap. But this is summer and so these are desperate times and expectations have been lowered. Bring on the emo music, the stupid hookups in space and the dreamy voiceovers about fate and destiny.

Other reviews
The L.A. Times’ Robert Lloyd ends its review this way: “I wouldn’t warn you away” and “I do wonder what’s coming.”
Alan Sepinwall at the New Jersey Star Ledger calls it “too slight, or silly, to treat as anything but the cheap, disposable summer programming it is.”

Official website here and here
On the CTV site, there are photos and the usual character and cast bios, but also video of the execs Parriott and Edelstein talking with great born-again zeal about what great potential space holds. Hm. The ABC site has almost nothing but video promos, the loading of which stalled my Firefox a couple of times.

— Denise Duguay

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