When it was originally on: 2020-present
Original network: AMC
Where you can stream it now: This first episode is available for free on AMC’s website, but you will have to watch commercials. I imagine subsequent episodes will require cable authentication, but it’s hard to say since only one episode is out.
Had I seen it before: No.
What IMDb says: Four ordinary people feel there’s something missing in their lives, but can’t quite put their finger on what it is, are brought together by chance – or perhaps it’s by design – when they stumble onto a puzzle hiding just behind the veil of everyday life. As they begin to accept the mysterious “Dispatches from Elsewhere” challenges, they come to find that the mystery winds deeper than they imagined, and their eyes are opened to a world of possibility and magic.
Why I picked it: As I was assembling The List, I knew I wanted to include just a few new premieres that were happening during my 100 Days. The others, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay and Picard are already up. But Dispatches From Elsewhere seemed intriguing to me. I’ve talked about how AMC has struggled to find a run away success after Mad Men despite still green lighting their fair share of interesting concepts. Dispatches From Elsewhere is one such concept, and it’s also one of AMC’s first forays into the anthology series, a growing segment of our television landscape that seems to have been cornered by FX.
What I liked: By the time you’ve watched over 60 pilots in two months, you start to notice certain patterns. You notice the same plot devices and the same character archetypes. So it was actually quite thrilling to watch Dispatches From Elsewhere, a pilot where I have absolutely no idea what they’re going for in the best possible way. Is it some kinda Black Mirror-esque thing? Some kind of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy thing with complete with unreliable narrator who drags Peter onto outrageous adventures? WHO THE HELL KNOWS.
The pilot for Dispatches From Elsewhere doesn’t have any supernatural or Sci-Fi elements, but it feels like it could go in that direction in any moment. It also feels like it could become a spy thriller, or a horror show. There’s a confidence to the storytelling here that makes the lack of specific information work. It’s aware of its genres tropes, as evidenced by the first two-minute narration. And throughout the whole pilot our protagonist Peter learns barely anything about anything, and neither do we.
And yet… I want more. Possibly the pilot’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t feel much of a need to explain its premise to you, and I would argue that far too many pilots over-explain. This pilot just takes you by the hand and says “we’re going for a ride, it’s gonna be crazy, just you wait and see.” Oftentimes, this approach can work far better than “we’re going on a roller coaster. Here’s exactly how high it’s going to go, and how fast the top speed is.” Dispatches From Elsewhere reminds me of so many different genres without fully committing to any of them, resulting in something pleasantly unfamiliar.
The fact that it’s an anthology series also gives me confidence that this won’t just turn into a tangled web of mystery-upon-mystery-upon-mystery-upon-mystery. I have hope that there is an endpoint in mind, and the writers can hopefully bring the ship to shore nice and smoothly.
What I didn’t like: A part of me kind of wishes I could’ve learned more about the non-Peter characters, but as the episode ends we get a segue into a a Simone-central plot, so it seems like each of our central four will get their own episode. That softened the blow.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Definitely.