Times flies on Fox’s “24,” but it’s rocket-fueled on the network’s intriguing new “Reunion.”
Premiering Thursday as part of Fox’s fall season head-start initiative, “Reunion” will be fast-tracking its way through one year per episode. So if you didn’t like 1986, where the story begins, there’s always 1987 the following week. Then comes 1988, followed by … OK, gotcha.
Each episode intermittently flirts with the present while otherwise dwelling in the pasts of six closely knit high school friends, one of whom didn’t live to see his or her 40s.
We know this because “Reunion” begins in a half-empty Bedford, N.Y., church, where a eulogist named Alger laments a brutal murder by an unknown assailant.
“Even now I can’t talk about one without talking about them all,” he says before “Reunion” rewinds to high school graduation day, circa ‘86.
Alger, a pudgy, plain-faced guy, is shown snapping a group picture of the six chosen ones, all of whom are fashion model cute.
They’re soon clinking beers – “May everything always stay as perfect as it is right now” – while out-of-the-clique Alger is probably off playing with his slide rule or something.
Of course we’d have no series if trauma weren’t just around the corner. So whammo, an inebriated Craig (Sean Faris from last season’s little-seen “Life As We Know It”) is broadsided by a pickup truck after he drives his Porsche through a red light.
Best buddy Will (Will Estes from “American Dreams”), riding shotgun after staying sober, is hospitalized with bumps and bruises.
“Why didn’t I just let you drive? You barely had anything to drink,” an aggravated Craig wonders.
This prompts Will to take the rap after Craig abruptly is handcuffed and charged with driving while intoxicated. The officer on duty buys Will’s story way too easily (“Your blood work was fine. Sorry for the mix-up”).
Craig goes home to his rich daddy (a recurring role by TV vet Gregory Harrison) while poor-side-of-town Will recuperates. All is well – including Will – until he’s arrested in connection with the pickup driver’s sudden death from previously undiagnosed internal bleeding. Uh-oh.
“Reunion’s” other four principals have an assortment of less pressing but still vexing problems.
Good girl Carla (Chyler Leigh), daughter of a dedicated drugstore owner, frets about being left behind while her friends all blow town.
Yikes, what could be worse than ending up “like some exhibit in a science museum, preserved the same forever?”
Carla also pines for virginal Aaron (Dave Annable), who carries a torch for flirty would-be actress Jenna (“North Shore” alum Amada Righetti).
That leaves Samantha (Alexa Davalos). She’s more or less Craig’s girl but fears she may have been impregnated by Will during their impulsive night together. Let’s just say that Will ends up being an amazingly stoic, stand-up guy by the time the first hour and year end.
Meanwhile, a detective played by former “Six Feet Under” regular Mathew St. Patrick is conducting a present-day investigation of the murder.
Who was it? Whodunit? The producers promise to answer both questions by the end of the season.
And if “Reunion” gets renewed, they also plan to hire a new cast and trigger the show’s year-by-year concept all over again.
Although soapy and threadbare at times, “Reunion” embeds its hook deep enough to merit a second look.
In the first episode’s final seconds, one of the six main characters says: “I guess you could say that 1987 started off with a bang.” Then someone fires a handgun.
Alas, the time slot’s a killer, too, with competition from CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and NBC’s fourth edition of “The Apprentice.”
This could mean that none of its years will prove to be a very good year for “Reunion.” For now, though, that’s looking too far into its days of future past.
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