I was pleasantly surprised by Extant, the “event series” starring Halle Berry that CBS is hoping will do just as well for them this summer as Under the Dome did last year at this time. The show, as I write at The Daily Beast, is a substantial upgrade over Dome, thanks in large part to its star:
The show’s name, Extant, means “still in existence; surviving”—the opposite of extinct. The word could also refer to Berry’s career, which seemed to have flatlined in recent years, outside of the X-Men franchise. Extant can only thrive if Berry does, and so far the actress, making her first TV series appearance since the short-lived 1989 Who’s the Boss? spinoff Living Dolls, delivers in what is a difficult, enigmatic role. Berry has never deployed her talents consistently during her career, but acquits herself quite admirably here. While at first, she seems to be frustratingly underplaying Molly’s reaction to the pregnancy news, it turns out that there’s a method to her stillness. You see, Molly also knows things—some of which unfold in flashbacks—with many more revelations likely to come in future episodes. Until they do, Berry utilizes her star quality to keep us riveted and awaiting whatever twist comes next. And she makes the most of her standout scene in the premiere, in which she silently and captivatingly unpacks several years of emotional baggage.
My long-term reservations about the show aside, I applaud CBS for proving, at least for now, that quality broadcast television can indeed be extant during the summer months.