Back to the Future with 'The Event' and 'The Real Housewives of D.C.'

A limo ride in The Real Housewives of D.C

If The Event wants to successfully take license with its time line, it would do well to learn a lesson from the recent D.C. installment of The Real Housewives.

The Event

Airtime: Mondays, 9pm
Cast: Jason Ritter, Blair Underwood, Laura Innes
Network: NBC

The Real Housewives of D.C.

Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm
Cast: Michaele Salahi, Stacie Turner, Catherine Ommanney, Lynda Erkiletian, Mary Amons
Network: Bravo

At the end of a recent episode of The Event, the mysterious leader of an otherworldly group of visitors tells the American president that her people have been waiting “66 years” and their patience is running out. On the other hand, I’ve only been waiting a few hours to find out what the ‘event’ is and my patience ran out around episode two.

The Event is part Lost and part FlashForward. The group of mystery people alludes to Heroes, but without the charm of a villainous Sylar and the conspiracy aspect places it in the category of 24 but without the fierceness of a Jack Bauer. I might have more patience for this identity crisis if it wasn’t for the show’s reliance on back story flashbacks.

In the first two episodes, the action is in the present. Then it’s two years ago. Then we’re back to the present. Then it’s three months ago. This structural whiplash is not intriguing. It’s just painful. Unlike Lost, where back stories were both interesting stand alone narratives and clever connections that enhanced the primary action, the flashbacks on The Event are simply points of information. So far, the series’ ‘time shifting for exposition’ strategy does little more than interrupt the story’s momentum.

If The Event wants to successfully take license with its time line, it would do well to learn a lesson from the recent D.C. installment of The Real Housewives. The series contains so much time shifting that the Bravo team has basically discovered a new level of the space/time continuum but with one important difference: unlike The Event’s explanation flashbacks, the Housewives’ time jumping heightens, rather than stalls, the show’s drama.

For example, in the second to last episode of the first season, a few of the housewives discuss fellow housewife Michaele Salahi’s alleged financial problems. The scene takes place in a restaurant on a snowy day but it is cut with a scene of Michaele and her husband traveling in a limo to an expensive country inn on a bright sunny afternoon. They talk about their upcoming gourmet dinner and the champagne they look forward to drinking.

If you missed the weather clue that these two events did not happen on the same day, the writers of "The Reliable Source", a Washington Post blog that recaps the show, did not. They noted on 1 October that the first snowfall in D.C. at the time of filming was in early December and Michaele was a guest at the inn in September. Yet, the juxtaposition of these two scenes sets them up as happening simultaneously. The result is dramatic tension as Michaele is made to seem frivolous and suspect while her fellow housewives form a Greek chorus commenting on her spending habits.

A limo ride in The Event

It’s a tricky time-shift editorial by Bravo, but it accomplishes an important task: it brings the audience into the story. Instead of watching the limo scene as a lifestyles of the rich and famous moment, the viewer might now wonder: “Is Michaele a con artist masquerading as D.C. Barbie?” In contrast, The Event asks the viewer: “What is the event?” but the boring expository flashbacks push the answer closer and closer to: “Who cares?”

While it might be tempting to dismiss the comparison I’m making because The Event is a fictional drama, the argument is less apples and oranges than it appears. The D.C. Housewives series is clearly not an objective account of the glamorous social lives of women who live on the Beltway. Michaele was established as the show’s villain from the beginning. When she became the White House ‘party crasher’ while the series was in production, her status as enemy number one was guaranteed to drive the narrative.

Perhaps it is this ‘stranger than fiction’ element that gives Bravo license to play with the show’s time line. Or maybe it’s disingenuous storytelling. Whatever your view, Bravo does one thing right: it knows that if you are going to ask your audience to perform detective work or minor math calculations to keep track of where they are in the narrative, there better be a satisfying payoff.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.