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TV review: ‘The Lottery'

The Lottery

• 9 p.m. Sunday

• Lifetime

* * * 


Posted 9:57pm on Saturday, Jul. 19, 2014

Take a spin around the TV dial and you’ll find myriad ways in which life as we know it may come to an unceremonious end.

Pick your poison: zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, a war pitting angels against demons, the Rapture, rampant vampirism, viral pandemic.

Now Lifetime’s The Lottery, a conspiracy thriller premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, adds a threat to humanity that sadly doesn’t seem as far-fetched as many on the list.

What if everyone just suddenly stopped having babies?

Welcome to the global infertility crisis of 2025. For reasons that no one in the scientific community can explain, the alarming problem started with a precipitous drop in birth rates in 2016. By 2019, it reached the point that only six children were born. After that, nothing more.

So imagine a world of empty maternity wards, a world in which there is no longer a need for kindergartens.

By 2025, society hasn’t descended into chaos as a result, but people are getting edgy and desperate because it’s hard not to see the writing on the wall.

We’re facing extinction of the human species, and the clock — our collective biological clock — is ticking.

White House Chief of Staff Vanessa Keller (played by Athena Karkanis) expresses her concern to the president about recent outbreaks of protests and anger, which includes “what happened in Austin last week.” She suggests the distinct possibility that we’re close to a tipping point.

Then Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton) delivers a “miracle.” Her government-funded research facility produces 100 viable human embryos, ready to be carried by surrogate mothers.

Ah, but almost the instant the breakthrough is discovered, an armada of black SUVs with government agents representing the Fertility Commission arrives on the scene, ham-handedly seizing control of the lab the way shadowy government agencies inevitably do in conspiracy thrillers.

Meanwhile, the glorious news is quickly politicized. The president announces to the nation that there will be a lottery to determine who will become surrogates. He assures that the selection process will be “fair and transparent.” But it’s hardly a leap to know that this good-faith promise will be perverted.

There are too many people who want control over the 100 embryos. There are too many barren wives of rich and powerful men who desperately want to become mothers.

A battle for control of the embryos is about to begin. It’s going to get ugly. And Lennon is going to get caught up in the middle of it all.

“When I read the pilot, I thought this has the potential to be so interesting on so many levels,” Shelton says. “There are all sorts of agendas and secret plots, and you’re not quite sure who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy.”

Actually, it’s clear from the start who one of the bad guys is. Darius Hayes (Martin Donovan) is director of the U.S. Fertility Commission. He arrogantly believes that only he has all the answers and he’s willing to do whatever he feels is necessary to ensure the greater good during this crisis.

Bear in mind, though, the first episode is all set-up. Whether The Lottery ultimately delivers on its promise depends on where the producers choose to take the series in the subsequent nine one-hour episodes.

In addition to Lennon, Hayes and Keller, viewers will be introduced to Kyle Walker (Michael Graziadei), the blue-collar father of one of the few 6-year-olds in the world.

Kyle and his son, Elvis, are destined to become part of the larger story, most likely by providing Lennon a clue to curing an infertile world, but how and when they will meet remains to be seen.

If the overall premise sounds suspiciously similar to Children of Men, the 2006 film starring Clive Owen, that’s because Timothy J. Sexton, creator and executive producer of The Lottery, also co-wrote that movie. He’s revisiting the idea because there’s the potential to create some fascinating drama with it.

There are some provocative ideas that can be explored. For example, this is a world in which the abortion debate is suddenly off the table and a political nonissue.

If, on the other hand, the plot descends into a bland sequence of thriller clichés of abductions, murders and chases, the show will be guilty of wasting a daring premise.

Frankly, the pilot gives off vibes that this is the unfortunate direction the show will take.

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