5 reasons NBC’s ‘Manifest’ might be the only successful ‘Lost’ copycat

“Manifest” is not the new “Lost.” But really, that’s OK.

When NBC’s high-concept drama debuted Sept. 24, it seemed oh-so-familiar. A plane disappears? And there might be something supernatural going on? How original. Oh, and all those people who didn’t age but now might have powers? USA Network’s “The 4400” might have something to say about that. 

How many times has network TV tried to recapture the glory days of 2004, when “Lost” captured the hearts of critics and audiences alike? “Flash Forward.” “The Event.” “Revolution.” “Terra Nova.” “The Crossing.” Just to name a few. 

The fact that we’re still looking for the new “Lost” and not the new “Event” only proves how hard it is to pull off a high-concept sci-fi or supernatural drama on network TV that actually maintains its audience and its quality. But NBC really, totally, sort of might have cracked it this time. 

“Manifest” has plenty of problems, but so far it’s fall’s highest-rated new broadcast series. NBC on Thursday picked up a shortened full season of 16 episodes. The story of a plane that disappears, only to return five years later without its passengers having aged a day, is edging out many of those revivals and remakes populating the airwaves. Four episodes in (a fifth airs Monday, 10 EDT/PDT), the series seems to have staying power. Here’s why: 

It’s easy to follow

The series’ biggest strength is its simplicity. Just because it’s a genre show doesn’t mean it has to be overly complicated. The supernatural riddle of what happened to the plane is driving a season-long arc, but each episode also has a “mystery of the week” that’s much more down to earth: Who was the stowaway? Who killed a passenger? The episodes provide easy answers that keep an audience satiated while bigger questions still linger. 

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