The premise of "The Crossing" is that forty-seven time-traveling survivors of a bleak future appear on a beach in the American Northwest. The hapless refugees bring two unexpected complications with them, one superhuman, and one a deadly disease designed to wipe out humanity. We also learn that an earlier group of survivors landed somewhere in America's recent past – not a group of ragged refugees like this one, but a secret cell hoping to change history. This latest primetime attempt at creating a science fiction show with mainstream appeal sounds exciting, but here's why it doesn't work.

'The Crossing' characters: not very memorable

If a group of strangers landing on a beach after experiencing some sort of supernatural intervention sounds familiar to you, it's because you've seen it before, in "The 4400" and "Lost," to name two. But both of these enduring shows featured unique characters, whose personal quirks were evident from the very start. In "The 4400," people who went missing from various points in history all reappear at the same moment. Each person has their own story (and often their own supernatural power), unlike the refugees in "The Crossing," who all tell basically the same tale. There are some unforgettably extreme personalities among the 4400, too, such as the charismatic cult leader Jordan Collier.

And who could watch the first two episodes of "Lost," and not be able to distinguish between Hurley, Sawyer, and Jack? Most of the survivors in "The Crossing" seem nice. Period.

The exception, of course, is Reese, the superhuman Apex who escaped the future with her adopted human daughter. The first episode hints at some interesting contradictions between her violent outbursts and her love for her daughter, but the second episode robs her of all psychological complexity.

We see her backstory in a generically tyrannical future, she enters a hideout planning to exterminate two dozen or so humans, but instead decides to kill her partner and save a baby, the sole survivor of the epidemic that killed the humans she was after. This transformation — this complete rejection of all she had believed in, takes Reese under a minute.

Compare that with the deliciously slow awakening of Kiera Cameron, the policewoman from a totalitarian corporate future accidentally sent back to present-day Vancouver in the wonderful Canadian science fiction "Continuum."

There is nothing particularly wrong with the affable local sheriff Jude Ellis (convincingly played by Steve Zahn) who is the focal point of "The Crossing." His character reminds of the likable Jack Carter from Syfy's "Eureka." But Jack Carter was surrounded by a town full of crazy geniuses, whereas Jude Ellis is a straight man without a comedic partner. Even his family is generic so far. He has a sweet little boy, not a rebellious teenage daughter who an unrecognized genius like Jack Carter was blessed with.

There isn't enough mystery in 'The Crossing'

"The Crossing" has one major mystery: who are the first group of survivors that arrived several years ago, and what are they up to? We don't know too many details about them yet - only that one has risen high the in the power structure of the FBI, and that a mysterious woman, shown only in silhouette, is in charge of the group, but the vague outline is all too clear. They are here to prevent the war between the Apex and regular humanity. I'm guessing they'd like to completely prevent the creation of the Apex. We don't know how they plan to do that, but still, it's not much of a mystery. And if a show doesn't have spaceships, aliens, robots, new planets, strange societies, or any of those fascinating elements science fiction fans love and mainstream viewers have trouble accepting, it needs mystery.

Did we have a vague idea what "the others" were up to after the second episode of "Lost?" Of course not. Did the hatch - an early discovery - answer our questions or just pose more? There are reasons why "Lost" "changed the face of network television," as Jacob Stolworthy puts it -- two of them were the amazing depth of characterization created by the flashbacks, and the relentless suspense of the overlapping mysteries. Unfortunately, ABC seems to have forgotten those lessons, at least where "The Crossing" is concerned.