Once upon a time, I had a toaster. It toasted bread pretty well. Sometimes I had to jam in bagels. Sometimes those bagels singed, because, being jammed in, they could not be effortlessly ejected by the toaster's spring. Sometimes I had to toast things twice to get the proper toastiness. But basically, it did what toasters are supposed to do — toast toast — and I was content with it.
And then one day, I used a toaster oven. It can do things a toaster could never do: reheat leftovers; melt cheese on top of sandwiches; toast objects thicker than a slice of bread. A toaster oven makes a standard toaster seem limited, pathetic, small. I could not go back to using one.
Resurrection, ABC's new drama about dead people who come back to life, is the standard toaster to the fantastic French series The Returned's toaster oven. I found Resurrection to be perfectly serviceable — until I started using The Returned 's better model. In both series, people who died violent deaths return to life, not as zombies, but as themselves, and are reunited with their loved ones, who have spent years grieving their loss.
Sunday night's first episode of Resurrection on ABC concerned itself with Jacob, an 8-year-old boy who wakes up in a rice paddy in China. It turns out that Jacob drowned 32 years before, in Missouri, but appears not to have aged a day, and is greeted by his now much older parents with a mixture of joy, disbelief, trepidation and lots of emotional face-caressing. As the nicely creepy advertisements that aired endlessly during the Academy Awards made clear, Jacob is not the only one coming back.
This is a very fertile premise for a TV show: an emotional, eerie mystery that could go in supernatural, conspiratorial and spiritual directions. And the show seems willing to explore some of the more day-to-day consequences of resurrection: when Jacob tries to play soccer with the other kids, their parents hustle them off the field rather than let them play with such a freak.
But since I watched the pilot of Resurrection, I watched all of The Returned (which is now streaming on Netflix). Unfortunately for Resurrection, The Returned is vastly superior in every way. While the two shows both contain bereft parents, law enforcement officials with personal agendas, pastors with painful backstories, quiet and sometimes spooky small boys, and newly reanimated criminals, the atmosphere in which Resurrection places them is thinner than Mount Everest's.
Compared to The Returned, Resurrection's performances, eeriness, themes, its production values, storylines, and opening credit sequence are all similarly weak.
I realize that I am telling you this perfectly passable network show is no good because a far better foreign version exists. Please do not mistake this for snootiness: it's just standards. Ideally, shows should be judged on their own terms — but The Returned is Resurrection's own terms. It is everything that Resurrection could be, and is not quite. Go with the toaster oven.