Look around the channel spectrum on Sundays these days and things look pretty dire for the human race. If the zombies of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (currently on hiatus) don’t get you, the vampires of FX’s “The Strain” probably will. Or maybe the virulent plague on TNT’s “The Last Ship” is just waiting to take you out.
Now humanity faces yet another threat, as “The Lottery” premieres Sunday, July 20, on Lifetime. This time, however, nothing is killing off the species. It’s just that, for reasons no one can pinpoint, women have stopped having babies.
Set in 2025, this new open-ended series stars Marley Shelton (“Eleventh Hour”) as Dr. Alison Lennon, a brilliant yet socially awkward scientist whose life revolves entirely on solving this medical puzzle. She and her team have managed, against all odds, to fertilize 100 eggs harvested from female donors, but the government immediately seizes control of Alison’s lab.
“Alison is an orphan with no family per se, so that has driven her to this world of science, where she can control her situation,” Shelton tells Zap2it. “She’s very driven, partly because she has grown up without the normal social constructs and family models for herself. She doesn’t understand protocol. She has intimacy issues. But in her lab, everything is in order and everything makes sense. She feels very safe there, and she feels that she can effect change there.”
While the women who donated the successfully fertilized eggs try to claim the right to be implanted with an embryo and carry their babies to term, the U.S. government decrees instead that the surrogates will be selected via a national lottery, which gives the series its title.
It’s impossible to watch “The Lottery” and not be reminded that this series is airing at a time when women’s ownership of their bodies is a hot-button political issue, and Shelton says that’s definitely a subtext of the series. “One of the things that drove me to the script was the way it pokes at a myriad of hot topics, social and political issues,” the actress says. “One of them is the question whether we have the right to control our own body. And it goes beyond the whole male/female gender thing.”
Shelton says she’s noticed the anxiety that seems to permeate contemporary culture. “For me at least, there seems to be this speed at which the world is changing, and it seems to be exponential, the way technology is just blowing out,” she says. “It seems like time is speeding up, and I feel a bit of anxiety about that, that this world is evolving at such a rapid pace that we can’t really keep up with it in terms of where we are headed.”