Tonight brings us the premiere of “The River” (8 p.m., ABC). It’s a stab at “Lost” by way of “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
‘‘The River” kicks off with vintage clips of Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood), the host of the popular TV show “The Undiscovered Country.” For decades, he and his family scoured the globe for obscure places and adventures. We see news footage about his disappearance in a remote spot on the Amazon. We’re told his estranged wife (Leslie Hope) has gone to search for him with the help of a reality TV crew. Then we’re told that “the following” consists of found footage, the lingering remnants of their efforts.
That hook not only harks back to “Blair Witch,” but allows “The River” to unfold in disjointed fits and starts, as one ragged reel gives way to the next. It’s a neat trick, playing on the idea that this is all unedited, when we all know that editors are the real, if unsung, stars of TV and — more to the point — reality TV production.
‘‘The River” often looks like those dumb “Ghost Hunters” shows on Syfy and elsewhere. Except on “The River,” we don’t watch for hours on end only to see somebody say, “Did you hear that?” No, the shocks come frequently. There are intimations of human possession, a creepy lair filled with hanging dolls, the disappearance of a major character, a grave robbery and a symphony of eerie cries and whispers. And that’s just during the two-hour pilot!
In fact “The River” is so rich with sudden shocks that one has to wonder how long this can continue. It has all the makings of a very scary movie. But an episodic story that lasts several seasons? We’ll just have to see.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Ricky Martin guest-stars on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• An in with the landlord on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Soothsayers on “Raising Hope” (8:30 p.m., Fox).
• Jane Curtain joins the cast of “Unforgettable” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Sarah and Mark consider starting a family on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A violin vanishes on “White Collar” (9 p.m., USA).
• A daring prison break on “Justified” (9 p.m., FX).
Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts star in the 2007 organized crime drama “Eastern Promises” (7 p.m., Fox Movie Channel).