ASCENSION premiere’s tonight at 9/8c on Syfy and, back in October, I met the cast. Let’s just get that humble brag out of the way first thing. I kid, I kid. Also, I didn’t so much meet the cast as I was in their vicinity for two days. Well, I did share a bowling lane with Andrea Roth and she did call me her bowling guru on Twitter. And she’s sweet and kind of great so I’m good with bragging about that part. But, now that the legitimate humble brag is out of the way, let’s get to my point.
Before listening to the cast talk about it in person, I had no interest in ASCENSION. Not even an inkling. Odd, since I’m addicted to THE 100 and I’d be all over a show about life on the Ark. Which is basically what ASCENSION sounds like, no? Sure their reasons for leaving Earth are different and more historically based but the premise is practically identical. And, frankly, that thought is one of the reasons I will be tuning into the three night event.
However, the cast really won me over. I know they are actors and it’s possible they were just really good at faking it but they seemed genuinely passionate about their roles on the show and how they thought it touched on some deeper threads about society and the issues we struggle with even today. To a one, they all had interesting things to say about the show itself and their characters. I don’t know if the show can live up to their hype but I’m definitely curious about it now.
I’ll note that I was a little put off by Syfy’s decision to air the episodes back-to-back over three days. It sure seemed like they didn’t like what they saw and wanted to burn it off quickly but I’m willing to buy into Bill McGoldrick, Syfy’s EVP of Original Content, explanation that, “You know, we have a tradition at this network. Battlestar Galactica started that way, as Tricia knows. You know, other networks do it. It’s concepts this big that require so much world building. Sometimes you can’t do it in just a two-hour pilot. You need more answers, and especially this one. When you guys watch it, you’ll understand why. So we’re going to air it. We’re going to make a big event out of it, and then we’re going to talk about a future, hopefully, very shortly after that.” I’ll admit it does seem like a show where I might not be totally on board after just one episode – just the scope alone makes it hard to know what the show is like in only one hour – and I am more likely to keep watching if I’ve got them all together and don’t have to remember to tune in next week.
Al Sapienza – who plays Councilman Rose on this show but you may know him as Detective Raymond Terney from Person of Interest or Mikey Palmice from The Sopranos –has really put a lot of thought into the show itself and his role on it. Even just his explanation of what he did to prepare for the part, “And it’s interesting, for an actor, it’s the opposite of what you normally do. For a role, you have to research what you don’t know. For this one, you just had to forget what you knew, like you have to imagine what it would be like if there were no civil rights, if there was no Martin Luther King, there was no Malcolm X, if there was no women’s lib movement, and total equality now in most places in the United States, like what would society be like without that? And it’s basically Mad Men, you know. So it’s Mad Men meets Star Trek meets Lost.” I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Mad Men meets Star Trek meets Lost?! Clearly I do since I’m trying to convince you to watch it with me.
And all of the cast think it’s the type of show people will want to discuss the next day. If it lives up to their expectations of it, I can definitely see that being true. Brandon P. Bell (Who, by the way, dropped a by Raymond Chandler quote while describing his character Oren, “It’s ‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is … neither tarnished nor afraid.’ And Oren Gault personifies that to the max. He’s a reluctant XO of the ship.”) sold it the best, “I think it’s extremely socially relevant. The historical fiction aspect is really cool, and I think it definitely has the ability to be one of those shows where people want to talk about the themes that are so relevant within them. There are so many parallels with what’s going on currently, and what’s happened, with what’s going on, on the ship. If you have the best and the brightest in the room, what could happen? If you had time and resources for them to continue living in that room, what would happen? And I think that’s essentially what we all aspire to see at some point. It’s the ideal situation. It tries to be utopia in a sense, but perfection is always impossible, and so things are — there’re tons of surprises and there’re wonderful stories and characters, and I definitely feel strongly in hoping people will connect with it.”