CBS' 'Extant': What the Critics Are Saying

5:00 AM PST 07/09/2014 by Justin Krajeski, Ashley Lee
CBS
"Extant"

Produced by Steven Spielberg, the CBS event programming summer series stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who goes on a solo space mission and comes home pregnant.

Halle Berry stars as an inexplicably pregnant astronaut in Extant, set to premiere on July 9 on CBS. The summer offering, scheduled to run for 13 episodes, is executive produced by Steven Spielberg and comes from first-time series creator Mickey Fisher.

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Created with Amblin Entertainment (the same collaboration that sprouted CBS' Under the Dome), the event programming summer series also features Goran VisnjicBrad BeyerPierce Gagnon and Camryn Manheim.

Read what top critics are saying about Extant:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Tim Goodman notes in his review that "Extant seems, in the hour pilot given to critics, intent on hooking with what might be, without giving much hint of what will be," adding: "If Extant wants to be vague, it's doing a great job." Though Goodman concedes that viewers who check in "may indeed get hooked" to the CBS summer blockbuster, he laments Extant's performances as ultimately falling as flat as the vague storyline: "Berry plays astronaut Molly Woods like she works at the DMVand she's married to Goran Visnjic and they have the least passionate kiss in the last year of television. How does that happen?"

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"Extant is not in a hurry to be anywhere, good or bad; it moves slowly, seems unsure of itself and of its direction and then throws a twist of sorts into the middle," Goodman concludes, hoping that the series will "tighten things the hell up for the second episode."

Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times praises the creators for "trying to revive this kind of classic science-fiction mystery," but calls the show "suspenseful and quite silly." Diluted by "too many plodding plot devices and stock characters," she asserts that the premiere, "while entertaining and expertly produced, doesn't hold out a lot of promise." Altogether, "CBS has made a lot of money by not overestimating its viewers: The promos on television and the Internet reveal pretty much everything important about the first episode, and that premiere ends with too few things left to the imagination."

USA Today's Robert Bianco positively notes that "if parts of the tale are familiar, it's all well-told, with a bit of visual flair; an occasional flash of humor to lighten the otherwise pervading air of disquiet; and some excellent performances from Visnjic, Gagnon and Camryn Manheim. The big draw, though, is Berry. Even in an industry that sets a high bar for beauty, Berry overachieves—but she's more than just stunning. She brings a dignity and gravity to Molly, a projected intelligence that allows you to buy her as an astronaut and to see what has happened to her as frightening rather than ridiculous. Berry's all in, and you float along."

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At The Washington Post, Hank Stuever writes that the show "quickly runs up its credit cards when it comes to borrowing imagery and ideas from other classics," though, in its defense, "in sci-fi, copying is more akin to homage, ... than in any other genre." He praises the series as "coolly conceived and professionally directed," even if Berry tends to let her "locked, agape lower jaw and bared teeth do the acting for her."

Alternatively, David Hinckley of New York Daily News calls Extant both "a triumph and a concern," a show "to which you must pay attention—a task which, happily, the writing and acting make rather pleasant." This may rule out casual viewers, he adds, but if your "gauge for sci-fi is 'the deeper the better,' … Extant should become your summer transport."

Extant premieres on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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