The CW's "The 100" (9 tonight, WPCW) is the latest in a long line of "Lost" imitators, but it's also one of the better efforts.
A cross between "Lost" and "Lord of the Flies" -- with a dash of "Earth 2"-style, colonization sci-fi ---- "The 100" posits a future in which a nuclear apocalypse leaves Earth uninhabitable and humans live on space stations. After 97 years, 100 young prisoners on the last remaining space station, the Ark, get sent back to Earth as guinea pigs to test its inhabitability.
The show splits its time between the adults back on the space station, which is dying, and the teens on Earth, but the show's heart clearly lies with the young cast.
Natural-born leader Clarke (Eliza Taylor) wants to follow the instructions of her mother, Abby (Paige Turco, "Damages"), to go find Mt. Weather, where a store of food may exist. But some of her fellow explorers would rather party.
Daredevil and potential love interest Finn (Thomas McDonell) prefers to tease Clarke. Rival leader Bellamy (Bob Morley) is all about protecting his sister, Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), at any cost.
All the characters have backstories, many of which get explored in future episodes in flashback, a device "Lost" used, too. The reasons for the kids' imprisonment ranges from drugs -- pothead Jasper (Devon Bostick) -- to being born -- the Ark had a strict one-child rule that Octavia's mother broke and was executed for her transgression.
Back on the space station, Abby often finds a receptive colleague in Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington, "Grey's Anatomy"), whose son, Wells (Eli Goree), is among the 100 who return to Earth. But Abby butts heads with second-in-command Kane (Henry Ian Cusick, "Lost"), who insists on strict enforcement of the rules to preserve the human race even at the cost of its humanity.
Developed for TV and written by relative newcomer Jason Rothenberg -- based on the novel by Kass Morgan -- "The 100" offers a well-conceived society on the Ark that brims with conflict and moral dilemmas that's paired with the unexpected discoveries of frontier exploration on Earth.
The pilot, especially, offers a wealth of surprises on Earth, from radiation-damaged flora and fauna to river monsters. And "The 100" is willing, even eager, to kill off seemingly major characters, another similarity to "Lost."
"The 100" isn't as deep, thoughtful and artful as some cable series (think: "The Americans," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad") but in a TV season that has given viewers such lackluster broadcast network efforts as "Resurrection," "Believe" and "Crisis," "The 100" proves itself superior to many of its freshman drama peers.
A version of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.