Is 'American Odyssey' Based On A True Story? It Draws From A Classic

This Easter Sunday, NBC is premiering two very ambitious projects, A.D. The Bible Continues and American Odyssey. While we all know where A.D. gets its story, what about the latter new series? Is American Odyssey based on a true story or any source material? It's taking advantage of the Homeland mania of three years ago to tell the story of Odelle Ballard, an elite Special Forces soldier whos goes MIA while trying to assassinate a high-level Al Qaeda operative and has to find her own way home after her entire squad dies. Well, the story is more than just Ballard's journey, as it also incorporates plotlines lifted from the early twenty-first century American politics. What prompts Ballard to escape is corporate interests becoming clearly involved in the actions of the armed forces, which is just one way the series is reminiscent of the real-life Halliburton scandal through the whole thing.

But while parts of this series may be inspired by real life, its actual plot comes from Homer's classic epic poem and foe of high school English students, The Odyssey. Note the title. Odelle's story — her name is clumsily similar to Odysseus — will have more in common with the ancient Greek hero than any real American soldiers, as she has to do more than just buy a plane ticket to get home. Her husband, played by Jim True-Frost, will, like Odysseus' wife Penelope, believe that his spouse is dead, and struggle to move on. But the Telemachus role, as the investigator behind Odelle's presumed death, will be taken by Peter Facinelli's lawyer character, who realizes he's working with the same company that's funneling money towards jihadis.

But if Ballard will be making an Odyssey-esque journey, then expect it to take her a loooong time to find her way home. It took Odysseus 15 years, though about half of that was devoted to shacking up with various sexy nymphs/witches, which hopefully Odelle will be able to avoid. Also absent from Ballard's journey is Odysseus' crew, who hold down the whole first half of the story. As a leader, Odysseus is terrible and inefficient, even though he's constantly ballyhooed by his men. And that was an excellent deployment of ballyhooed, by the way. But a bunch of his men end up killed by a Cyclops (one-eyed mercenary?), more are turned into pigs by Circe (forced to take bribes by a crooked politicians?), and the rest are killed at sea (killed at sea? that could work in either version). Unfortunately, Ballard is on her own, as she's being hunted down by Al Qaeda and the U.S. government, and both want her dead.

One thing I'm curious about — who will take over the Athena role in the original story? While it's obvious that this show won't have actual magical gods introduced, they have to be careful about adding a deus ex machina. But that's at least four seasons away, so let's just see if American Odyssey is able to last through it's first.

Image: Keith Bernstein/NBC