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La Brea Is a Sucking Sinkhole of a Sci-Fi Mystery Show

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Glenn Garvin | 9.24.2021 3:00 PM

La Brea. NBC. Tuesday, September 28, 9 p.m.

Way back in 1977, the same year the ever-forward-looking programming geniuses at the broadcast networks brought back The Mickey Mouse Club, ABC aired a landmark episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie, wearing his leather jacket and a bathing suit, jumped over a shark on water skis. Prescient TV critics immediately declared Happy Days dead Nielsen meat and coined the phrase "jumping the shark" to pinpoint the moment when the creativity of a TV series expires. (Those philistine viewers, unaware they were watching a corpse, kept the show in the broadcast top five for another five years.)

The shark-jumping occurred in Happy Days' fifth season. But a critic who waits five years to declare a shark jumped these days probably won't have a show left to declare dead; three and a half seasons is now considered a healthy lifespan for a TV series. So let's give mad props to NBC's La Brea, which vaults the Selachimorpha in precisely nine minutes when it debuts next week.

La Brea starts with a perfectly normal slice of Los Angeles life: a hopeless traffic jam in the Hancock Park area near the La Brea tar pits, the gooey final resting place of many a giant and unfriendly Pleistocene creature. And, all the sudden—boy, is it hard to write this review........

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