For all the mysterious teasers and intriguing commercials leading up to USA’s “Dig,” there wasn’t much to uncover in the 90-minute pilot. In fact, it seems the best elements of this “Da Vinci Code” meets “National Treasure” television “event” were jam-packed into those masterfully crafted commercials.
I was really looking forward to this new show, as it doesn’t look like anything else currently on TV. Plus, add in the great casting (Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche) and all the clues led me to believe this would be a rollicking, fun romp into ancient mysteries, religious conspiracies, and political intrigue.
But, unlike most other shows on USA, this one is nearly devoid of fun and seems unable to wink at its own preposterousness. The story involves three sub-plots, with the primary tale centering on Isaac’s character, FBI agent Peter Connelly. He is assigned to solve the murder of an American in Jerusalem, while also mourning the loss of his daughter and occasionally banging his boss (Heche).
Connelly is obviously distressed, but it’s hard to nail down why. When he happens upon an enigmatic archeology student with Kool-Aid red hair, she leads him to strange, dark places, where people are conducting religious rituals and, hopefully, laying the foundation for a better, richer mystery down the line.
If you were looking for the kind of compelling intensity Isaacs gave us in his short-lived series “Awake,” you’re going to be disappointed. He’s still got a passionate single-mindedness, but it’s hard to tell exactly what his motivations are. He’s fuzzy in a story where we need him to be crystal-clear.
And for those of you who, like me, have fallen in love with Heche as one of Lifetime’s recent leading ladies, you’re going to miss the campy earnestness she can bring to even the most contrived role. Perhaps it’s the attempt to keep her muted in buttoned-down suits and a professional aloofness, but something just falls flat. I like Heche so much better in tight miniskirts where she’s torn between her reckless, bawdy tendencies and a flawed devotion to her kids.
When we’re not in Jerusalem, the show takes us to a sterile, menacing facility in New Mexico where a little boy, Joshua, is being held. We also go to a mostly-barren field in Norway where a devout Jewish man is looking after a sacred, red cow.
We can’t figure out whether Joshua is some kind of modern-day messiah or another kind of supernatural conduit, but he seems to be a key for whatever apocalyptic plans are being set in motion. I’d like to give you more details, but the show didn’t supply them. My prediction about Joshua’s role is more of a hunch than a clear plot point.
And that’s the biggest problem for this show. It should have us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the next installment, but they threw too many disconnected threads at us with no clear pattern or enough background information to understand where it’s all going, let alone how all the pieces work together, so I’m quickly losing interest.
Obviously it’s a mystery and it’s supposed to keep us guessing – but having to guess about the basic plotline and character motivations isn’t exhilarating, it’s confusing.
“Dig” is missing both the intricate secrets of “The Da Vinci Code” and the ridiculous wit of “National Treasure” – either of which would make the show more watchable. Perhaps they were just trying to throw too much at us in the pilot, and the tangled mess will be unraveled more coherently in subsequent episodes.
But, for now, I’d recommend skipping “Dig.” It doesn’t deliver the transcendent escape that its premise seems to promise, nor the nail-biting suspense glimpsed in the teaser campaign. It’s not the worst show on TV, but it feels like it’s trying too hard to be too many things to too many audiences. Unless “Dig” finds a way to break ground in a more compelling way, it looks like this 10-episode television experiment is more likely to be joke source material rather than the center of anyone’s must-watch TV schedule.
Image: Official USA DIG Facebook page