The River—Season 1

6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

Interesting concept

Average story, found-footage problems, average acting


We’re moody and reflective.

The star of a popular nature show The Undiscovered Country goes missing in the Amazon during a series shoot.  When the distress beacon of Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) sounds after his presumed death, his family and the crew of The Undiscovered Country get the opportunity to try to find him in exchange for the exhibition being shot.  A full scale venture into the Amazon ensues, and the mystery of something called the Source might reveal that magic is real.

The River—Season 1 was a mid-season replacement in the winter/spring of 2012 on ABC.  It ran from February 7, 2012 to March 20, 2012 airing eight hour long episodes.  It was produced by Steven Spielberg and created by Paranormal Activity creators Oren Peli and Michael R. Perry.

The River—Season 1 was an attempt to bring the boom of found-footage films to television by the clever idea of combining it with the popularity of reality TV and nature shows like The Crocodile Hunter or other shows on the Discovery Channel.  The initial numbers and reviews were positive, but the numbers began to dwindle as the series continued on.


Too bad you can see the thing I’m standing on

The problem with found-footage movies continues here, but I’ll admit the reasons for shooting this “series” are much smarter and more realistic.  Throughout the film, it is planned for this to be edited and any footage found in the story does have a reason and the possibility of being found.  It also does follow the style of shows like Ghost Hunters and stuff where anytime there is the possibility of seeing anything cool or scary, crappy camera work keeps it from being possible…this really doesn’t make for the best TV.

The River—Season 1 is also hindered by so-so acting and too many characters to really develop.  You forget that some characters just “disappear” because they are sometimes behind the cameras, and the characters that show focuses on are really cardboard cut-outs of drama characters.  I do feel they developed through this first season, but not enough to keep audience’s interest.


Wow, wonder what will happen next season!!! Aw crap!

This show also has the whole Lost thing going against it.  The Lost audience has been looking for another show to fill Lost’s shoes and this was marketed as the one.  Unfortunately, people also felt burned by the whole Lost “magic” answer to the island, and another show built around anything could happen and it’s “magic” doesn’t lend itself to good writing since magic can fix it.  Many of the episodes come off as bad X-Files episodes with less compelling characters and writing.

This collection really should be called The River—The Complete Series.  Plans to bring back the series were nixed and an attempt to continue it online also fell through.  This was a nice attempt and I admit that the show did get a bit better toward the end, but not enough that I would have kept watching.  I guess the dog they left in the jungle (and the crew of The Magus) are forever screwed.

The River–Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:



1.1       Magus Airdate: 02/07/12

The host of The Undiscovered Country, Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) disappears in the Amazon in his boat The Magus. When the world thinks Cole is dead, his wife Tess (Leslie Hope) has convinced her son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) to go on a reality show in a last ditch effort to find Cole. With a full film crew, security expert Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann), The Magus’ camera operator’s daughter Lena Landry (Eloise Mumford), the producer Clark Quietly (Paul Blackthorne) and the boat captain Emilio Valenzuela (Daniel Zacapa) and his daughter Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) search for hope but find something more when they discover The Magus.



1.2       Marbeley Airdate: 02/07/12

The Magus and its crew continue down the river after their encounter with the corpo seco and try to use Emmet Cole’s tapes to track him. Jahel is possessed by someone claiming to be Emmet and Emmet warns Tess to turn around. The crew goes inland in the hopes of finding clues on land to Emmet’s disappearance. When the crew discovers a tree of dolls, Lincoln finds his old teddy bear that had been lost. The crew recalls the story about La Dejada, and they worry the spirit of a drowned girl is coming for them. Lincoln is reminded of a necklace given to him by his father and is unaware of the ties to Lena.


“Los Ciegos”

1.3       Los Ciegos Airdate: 02/14/12

The crew gets a new lead on Emmett and head inland.  An investigation into a cave leads to an encounter with a tribe called the Morcegos known as the Guardians of the Forest.  In the morning, the crew begins to go blind and a cure must be found before the crew is left completely blind.  When A.J. (Shaun Parkes) is the only one left seeing, group must rely on him to find the cure before the Morcegos come for them.  Lincoln discovers that Clark and his mother have a past, and Kurt hides that he has his own initiative.


“A Better Man”

1.4       A Better Man Airdate: 02/21/12

A battle for leadership of The Magus begins to develop, and the discovery of one of Emmet’s cameramen named Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) caught alive in vines could pose a lead.  Jonas is revealed to have shot a sacred elder funeral and could be suffering from a curse called El Colgado…the hanging man.  When the crew of The Magus tries to save Jonas, they could bring the curse upon themselves.  Tess discovers why Emmet travelled to the Amazon and learns of the Source.



1.5       Peaches Airdate: 02/28/12

Jonas reveals what he can about the Source as the quest for answers continue.  Lena deals with the disappearance of her father Russ (Lee Tergesen) and the fact that no one is looking for him.  An encounter with a rogue boat in the night leads to a breakdown in The Magus, but the appearance of a boat and crew called Exodus could be their only hope.  When Jonas and Lena board Exodus, they find the crew is hiding a secret.


“Doctor Emmet Cole”

1.6       Doctor Emmet Cole Airdate: 03/06/12

Lena deals with the death of her father as the crew heads to the waterfalls where Russ directed them.  When they discover more tapes of Emmet, they learn Emmet was close to finding the Source.  As Emmet and his crew begin hunting the Source, they find they are slowly being hunted.


“The Experiment”

1.7       The Experiment Airdate: 03/13/12

The search for Emmet reaches a dead end when Kurt, Lena, Lincoln, Jonas, and Tess find the post he was left at filled with the corpses of the people who worked there.  Lena questions the meaning of the marks on her neck and why Emmet says she was selected.  When Emmet’s former employee Rabbit is discovered, the crew of The Magus finds the outpost overrun by zombie-like creatures.  Emmet is found in a cocoon state, and a desperate rush back to The Magus could lead to death to the crew.


“Row, Row, Row, Your Boat”

1.8       Row, Row, Row Your Boat Airdate: 03/20/12

Emmet is found and The Magus heads home down the Amazon.  The crew demands answers from Emmet and Emmet tries to explain his actions.  When Lincoln is shot by an unknown assassin on The Magus trying to kill Emmet, a chance to bring him back might mean calling on the Source.  Lincoln is restored with the truth and something extra inside of him, and the crew’s attempts to escape the river and its spirits might be in danger.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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