Flipping Channels: Lifetime Gets Lottery Fever, and the Last of Murder in the First

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Lifetime seldom dips into the world of futuristic science fiction, which makes its new series The Lottery a very different and intriguing offering for its audience. It's a conspiracy thriller and pseudo-political outing, presenting a society where the issue of population control has suddenly been resolved in a manner that threatens humanity's survival.

It's 2025 and women are not having babies anymore. A global fertility crisis has resulted in a five-year span when not a single child was born. But in an isolated lab situation, Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton) has fertilized 100 embryos. When that knowledge is revealed, the government kicks into overdrive. Lennon eventually gets pulled off the project, replaced by someone the current administration feels is more in tune with their views regarding how things should move forward.

A lottery system is established to determine which 100 people have the opportunity for a new family, and by extension, the chance to restart civilization.

"It's one of those interesting dramas/thrillers where half of the government is good guys and half are bad guys and you don't know who is on what side, and there are all sorts of secret agendas and my character is sort of caught up in it," Shelton told Hopper magazine in talking about the show, which runs 9 p.m. Sundays. (Last Sunday's pilot is currently available on demand.)

Shelton's character gets caught in the middle of machinations and power plays, even as she tries to keep politics out of the selection process. She ultimately decides the best move is returning the embryos to their original owners, something that doesn't sit well with a lot of powerful people.

Whatever happens with The Lottery, it's a welcome different direction for the network from such showcase programs as Celebrity Wife Swap or Bring It!

Cedar Cove returns
Things aren't nearly so murky or dark on Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, the Hallmark Channel's ode to small town life, which began its second season over the weekend and runs 7 p.m. Saturdays. While there are certainly problems and dilemmas, they aren't quite as global or extreme.

As year number two unfolds, Justine (Sarah Smyth) and Seth (Corey Sevier) try to decide if they can make things work as well as their restaurant venture. Maryellen (Elyse Levesque) tries to help a man (Charlie Carrick) on the run from two mysterious and dangerous types. Plus Olivia (Andie MacDowell) deals with flashbacks from the past and issues in the present.

This is basic, old-fashioned family entertainment. No anti-heroes, vulgarity or nudity, but also few surprises and not much excitement. If you like the characters, you'll enjoy the show. Otherwise, not much there.

Murder concludes
The first season of the heralded Murder in the First wraps up soon on TNT (9 p.m. Mondays) and the producers promise there will be a solution and closure to the Cindy Strauss murder case for those who've followed it from the start.

Of course, they didn't say it would be a neat and tidy resolution. The prosecution thinks they've got everything under control, only to have a key witness wind up dead right before it's time to testify. Now the duo of Terry (Taye Diggs) and Hildy (Kathleen Robertson) must find out just what happened, when and where, before everything falls apart.

Meanwhile, Warren Daniels (James Cromwell), Erich Blunt's attorney, sees a chance to pull an acquittal out of nowhere. Murder in the First has generally been solidly acted and directed, if paced somewhat erratically.

But I personally preferred the first incarnation of this series, which ran from 1995-97, over the 21st century edition. We'll see if the concluding episodes pack the same punch as the finales from the first production.

24's future
A very thorough and interesting article on the future of 24 is available on the Vulture website. Manny Coto — the co-showrunner on this season's 12-episode 24: Live Another Day, which completed its summer run July 14 — doesn't dismiss the possibility there could be yet another season.

Coto explains the decisions made in the finale, which have triggered plenty of online debate and discussion, and denies that the final scenes were designed to give Fox an out if they wanted the show to come back once more.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the article by Denise Martin, and am also still a huge 24 fan, I think this season proved it's time to let a great thing rest — or if not rest, at least not return as a series. The original plan for the show's comeback as a feature film seems the best way for another version, if it must come back. But as the article suggests, what happened in the finale is also a good way to end it once and for all.

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