Manifest is the kind of high concept TV show that networks have been trying ever since Lost’s breakout success. Unlike that show that kept its premise fresh for at least three seasons, many of these shows can’t even make it a full season without the basic concept breaking down. Manifest couldn’t even make it a full episode.
Suffering from the This Is Us-ification of broadcast shows, every other scene is someone crying or embracing. That’s fine in the early moments, but by the end it was feeling ham-fisted to make an emotional connection. Worse, that clever premise of people disappearing aboard a plane for five years is rushed through so we can get to the later moments that devolve into–wait for it–both a medical and police procedural in one! Pilot episodes are notoriously rough and many a great shows have evolved out of bad first pitches. This one just has a lot of evolving left to do.