So Amazon has pushed out five brand new pilots, three comedies and two dramas. Last time around the "genre" show was The After, an intriguing offering from Chris Carter that shared much of it's DNA with Lost.
This time around Hysteria fills that slot.
Hysteria deserves props for an interesting premise; what if viral videos spread something that could affect people physically. It’s a unique enough idea that it could produce a promising show, potentially.
Unfortunately that notion isn’t really enough to carry things and that’s when Hysteria begins to suffer.
When an affliction of convulsions infects a group of teenage girls on the same dance team in Austin, Logan Harlen (Mena Suvari) a talented neurologist/psychiatrist is dispatched to figure things out. Oh and Harlen is mildly socially awkward.
Also, she’s from Austin and her brother (T.R. Knight) was convicted of killing her childhood friend and is days away from being executed. And she carries a torch for her dead friend’s brother, who’s still in Austin. So while she’s returning home, it’s not a warm homecoming.
Filling out the episode is a story-line about one of the girls from the dance team, who was having an affair with a police officer. It’s her desire for revenge that helped start the presumed epidemic. Not only does she set the tone for the late night dance lesson, but it’s the video of her sister convulsing that goes viral, thanks to a clip editor who subsequently becomes afflicted.
Hysteria does a good job with the dance team. They feel like teenage girls and act like them. Their use and reliance on technology feels very authentic. Those characters never feel like stereotypes.
But virtually everything else about Hysteria feels forced. Logan Harlen and her quirks feel like an artificial attempt to give her layers rather than crafting a genuine character. The back-story about her brother killing her best friend feels like a forced attempt to add edge and possibly a larger mystery. Even the teenager having an affair with a cop feels tacked on.
There’s nothing really standout about the performances. I suppose Josh Stewart deserves credit for looking so world-weary. The bags under his eyes are truly impressive. Mena Suvari does fine with what she’s given, though she doesn’t appear to be having any fun.
Based on what’s presented in the pilot Hysteria barely has enough story for a first season, much less a second one. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on the off chance Amazon decides to move forward with it.