Extant: A Polished TV Production Worthy of the Big Screen


Academy Award winners Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry are the executive producers of a TV series so well polished that it puts the viewer in the mind of watching a major film release on the small screen, and that is utterly refreshing. A few weeks back CBS began to air the promo’s for their new highly-anticipated TV series Extant. Thus far it has lived up to the hype.

Extant stars Berry as Molly Woods, a highly-esteemed astronaut in a futuristic America. Molly returns home to earth after a 13-month solo mission in space, but is not feeling her best. She is welcomed home by her friends, family, and colleagues including her loving husband John portrayed by Goran Visnjic (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), and their humanoid son Ethan portrayed by Pierce Gagnon. Molly has been vomiting and feeling run down. She is certain that all is well, and that she just needs to re-adjust to life back on earth, but Ethan insists that his mother Molly is not the same.

Molly’s personal friend Sam Barton (Camryn Manheim) is also the physician in charge of Molly’s post-mission physical, and discovers that Molly is with child. Molly insists that a pregnancy can not be possible since she is infertile and has spent the last 13 months alone on a solo space mission. But was she really alone?

Since this anomalous pregnancy presents more of an unwelcomed quagmire for Molly than she feels equipped to explain to her superiors, she beseeches her friend Sam to withhold the discovery until she has had time to process the new information and inform her husband. Sam reluctantly acquiesces, and Molly attempts to move on with her post-mission life, but realizes there is a presence lurking within her surroundings.

Molly’s husband John is a scientist who has successfully developed a humanoid prototype which happens to be their son Ethan. While Ethan does indeed possess the physical appearance of a human being, he is equipped with a panel near his shoulder blade that requires maintenance and charging. John has become obsessed with promoting and developing this prototype “humanich” to the world, and insists that the humanich nothing short of human and should be characterized as such. He unsuccessfully solicits funding from skeptical benefactors who are turned off by John’s obsessive demeanor and lack of decorum. Even Molly agrees that John appears too emotionally attached to their non-human son. Meanwhile Ethan’s behavior is becoming increasingly aggressive and unruly.

Extant’s premiere episode has successfully left viewers  eagerly awaiting the next installment of the hit summer science fiction series. The production was marked by solid performances, and while a few flaws can indeed be detected in the story line, it is not enough to deter viewers  from enjoying this one hour of intriguing, scripted entertainment on CBS.

A finicky faction of Americans have had their fill of reality TV. Initially, reality TV may have been considered a passing fad that was thought not to endure more than a decade, but as the genre closely embarks upon two thriving decades, it appears that this genre is not about to retire any time soon on network TV.  CBS’s Extant and NBC’s Parenthood are just two of a mere few TV productions that serve as a welcomed saving-grace and pleasure to watch amidst a cornucopia of small screen garbage. The networks present the garbage and apparently American audiences keep watching (or such is the report from the networks). The masses are even tuning in to reality TV shows that sometimes air three times a week, yet some are still, perhaps in futility, looking forward to the demise of the reality genre and the return of more scripted network programming.

It has been noted that when a Hollywood film actor settles into a TV role it is either an indication that their film career has imploded, and their agents just are not receiving scripts for them anymore, or that the actor has resigned to doing TV when they feel the need to settle down and be in one place to enjoy and enhance their family environment. Berry, who has indeed settled into a family life over the past few years, was vocal about her new role on Extant and she asserts that while the latter is true in her case, she wants to make sure that her fans as well as her critics understand that she in no way considers her career to be diminished in any fashion by taking on a television role. “Some of the best projects are on television these days,” said Berry, “…TV is much more interesting in some ways than film now. You know, not to knock film. Because film will always be film. But the quality of television has changed over the years.”

It can certainly be agreed upon that quality scripted productions have reared-up on cable and the internet. That being said, the big three networks are sorely lagging behind and need to play catch-up.

Extant can be seen on CBS every Wednesday at 9pm eastern time. Berry and Spielberg deliver a highly-polished, must-see, five star production.

Review by Janet Walters Levite


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