Premiere Date: July 20th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
The Lottery (Pilot)
Starring: Marley Shelton, Michael Graziadei, David Alpay, Anthena Karkanis, Yul Vazquez, Shelly Conn, Martin Donovan
Imagine a world without children. A world where women, for some reason or another, cannot be pregnant. A world where hospitals, schools, little league teams, and just the presence of young people; are all a thing of the past. Where the hope for any future rests on a few scientists trying to find a cure for an ailment that really didn’t have a certain cause. I’ll give you a moment to think… can’t imagine a future with children not in it, can you? Neither can I. A world like that shouldn’t happen, and the more I think about it, the thought of no children in the future could plausibly occur (especially with China’s ‘One Child Policy’).
This is the basic premise of the new Lifetime television series The Lottery– a world set in 2025, and a storyline much similar to the 2006 movie Children of Men, also about a similar premise of a dystopian future where the world has stopped reproducing. Premiering on Sunday July 20th, this is the first Lifetime show I have seen since the 2011 failed police procedural Against the Wall, and while I was at first hesitant to check this new sci-fi show out (because honestly, the best sci-fi shows are on FOX, Sci-Fi and CBS, not Lifetime, right?), I was instantly surprised with what the show had to offer.
Fast paced, action packed, heartfelt, emotive, thought provoking, and just enjoyable; Lifetime have a winner, and a show that’ll hopefully be on the screens of TVs years into the future (if the fans have something to say about it, and if the ratings hold up). Relevant in theme, The Lottery uses the title that brings to mind themes of gambling to bring to us a future where it is indeed needed to think about gambling- especially when coming up with a solution to the fertility problem shown in this 40 minute pilot episode. With the screenplay of both the movie and this new television series written by Timothy J. Sexton; TV brings us another version of what we as humans project our future to become. While at times the show can border on the far-fetched; The Lottery does provide us with some questions we as a humanity need to think about if we want our futures to become more utopian than what is currently shown in this new Lifetime production.
It is the year 2025, and no woman has given birth in over 6 years. The last fertilisation and birth was in 2019, and before then, it was told that infertility rates were increasing. Set in a world 11 years into the future (a future that could possibly happen, if our environmental destruction, chemicals, global warming, and overpopulation come to a collision and infertility occurs as a result); The Lottery focuses on Dr Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton), a scientist doing her best to research a cure to the infertility plaguing the world. Upon the discovering of a first viable human embryo in six years, Alison is sent on a journey of danger, adventure and self-awareness. She gains a knowledge in the pilot, one that shows her that the lack of children has made the world a place where sinister motives, compromising decisions, unsavoury developments and scandals mean much more to the government at hand than finding an actual cure and ending the fertility drought that has made the world a place even I may not want to live in.
Interwoven stories are shown that branch out of Alison’s story- a single father, Kyle Walker, and his son, one of the last few children to have been born in the world and their situations and circumstances during 2025; and the Secretary of State Vanessa Keller (Anthena Karkanis), as she drafts a proposal to the President of a lottery cast that picks 100 lucky American women to be surrogate mothers to 100 fertilised eggs, some of the first fertilised eggs in six years. It is these connections and layered storylines that have made The Lottery as intriguing as it is. While not necessarily at the calibre of many futuristic television shows like Person of Interest, Continuum, Orphan Black or The 100; what this show has done that no other show about the future has done was discuss about an issue very close to the hearts of many around the world- having children and the ability to have children. While it may be far-fetched to conceive a world where women stop having children, for whatever reason; the show has nevertheless brought to the fore a theme of protection- protecting the next generation, regardless of the future they face.
In terms of storyline, The Lottery uses a real issue in a not too distant future, as we reflect and ponder- can population dwindling really lead to what The Lottery suggests? There has been many television shows and movies that have attempted to explain what the future may hold, or not hold, for mankind, but have spoken as much too me as The Lottery. While at times the acting wasn’t perfect (I reckon from on objective standpoint, the six year old actor who portray’s Kyle Walker’s son isn’t that great when compared to other child actors), The Lottery holistically shows us a story that is what it is- sci-fi themed but with a hint of realism to cause people to think, ponder, and wonder what life could be like, and what life should be like (and how to act and think if such a situation like The Lottery were to arise in the future). Considering that Sci Fi is a new genre for Lifetime, home of shows like soap drama Devious Maids, fantasy Witches of East End and recent dramas Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva; the pilot of The Lottery brings a uniqueness and freshness to a channel that will certainly be noticed, if not already, after Sunday July 20th.
Overall, the pilot episode left me with much more intrigue, interest and genuine excitement for myself than how I felt going into the episode- I didn’t know anything about the show beforehand- I didn’t even watch the trailer, even though I meant to. Yet will the show survive in the timeslot of 10pm on Sundays? It depends. With shows like CBS’s Reckless, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, FX’s The Strain, HBO’s The Leftovers, Showtime’s Masters of Sex and TNT’s Falling Skies all wanting to win the 10pm time slot, it can seem like an already lost race for The Lottery. Nevertheless, it’ll be great to wait a few more weeks to see how many viewers tune into this new show, and to investigate what the ‘acceptable’ number of viewers are for Lifetime to warrant a renewal.
Should you watch the show, regardless of viewers? Like I said before, The Lottery on the whole probably would’ve fit better on FOX, CBS or Sci-Fi, with the show likened to other Sci-Fi dramas like Eureka, Terra Nova, Almost Human or Terminator– having a futuristic atmosphere whenever someone watches it. I would definitely recommend the show to anyone who loves a bit of drama and sci-fi, or anyone would want something unique and fresh, compared to what else is on offer on Lifetime. The premise itself is interesting, and while at times certain scenes can come across as cliché, the quality of the camerawork, the emotion carried through by the actors, and the closeness in year when you compare real life to this fictional universe, is what I reckon will intrigue viewers in weeks to come.
Did The Lottery leave a lasting impression on you? Which theme in the first episode spoke to you the most? What elements of the show remind you of something in your everyday life that you may not have paid much attention to prior to watching? Let us know in the comments.
RIYL: Almost Human, Terra Nova, Defiance, Eureka, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: 4/5 (based on Pilot)
The Lottery airs every Sunday at 10/9c on Lifetime.