Thursday, October 01, 2009
This time every year I hit my DVR to record and start watching the new shows of the season. It's rare that I pick up more than one or two news shows a year, especially given the cancellation rate of network TV shows, but I'm curious enough to want to check out the new offerings-- especially if there is a scifi twist. Flash Forward, this year's answer to "Lost," intrigued me for a couple of reasons. First, it stars reclusive British actor Joseph Fiennes ("Shakespeare in Love") and, secondly, the show is supposed to be loosely based on a novel by science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer. ("W.W.W. Wake") As the show opens, F.B.I agents Mark Benford (Fiennes) and Demetri Noh (John Cho) are in the middle of staking out an international terrorist and soon find themselves in the middle of a high speed chase. In the middle of the chase they are caught up in an event that causes them to black out. Thinking at first that the terrorist they were chasing somehow caused a local incident, using something like a dirty bomb, the agents hazily find the car they were chasing and try to sort out what happened. But as crowds gather around the two officers looking for answers, they begin to realize something much larger is going on. Despite widespread chaos, it doesn't take long to figure out the blackout was a worldwide event. For 2 minutes and 17 seconds virtually every person in the world lost consciousness and had a vision of the future. Agent Benford had a vision of being in the middle of trying to figure out the cause of the blackout, or flash forward as it has come to be known, and soon convinces his boss, agent Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) to allow him to spearhead the effort to solve the mystery. "Flash Forward" is an interesting show for a variety of reasons. It's a typically slick TV production and has all the meaningful glances, dialogue and dramatic music I've come to associate with series television. It's clear that "Flash Forward" is being positioned to fill the void that will be left when "Lost" ends by having numerous twists and mysteries. But it also gains something by being based on a solid piece of fiction. As I understand it, "Flash Forward" the TV show has been significantly altered from the version written by Sawyer-- I haven't read the book so I can't say for sure. But, from what I have read, many important elements remain that might save the show from spinning off into abyss of never-ending plot devices. Primarily the strength of "Flash Forward" is the philosophical questions it brings up by giving everyone a glance into their own future. As expected, some people have positive, almost dreamlike visions, while others have visions that scare them to death. Still others don't have any visions at all and are left wondering if that is a premonition of their death. The show is only two episodes in and it's already dealing with whether the future is fixed or changeable and if knowing the future will cause us to try to make it happen. These aren't new questions but it still makes for good television. The show certainly isn't flawless. I found myself bugged by the fact that there didn't seem to be that much chaos for a world-wide blackout. The main character's wife is a doctor-- and she still manages to make it home in time for dinner. She even drives her car home and something tells me the roads wouldn't be clear if everyone in the world was knocked unconscious for two minutes. That kind of lack of credibility does tend to take me out of the show; though I am willing to allow that the writers chose not to focus on the initial chaos and get straight to the meat of the story. My other, minor, complaint is that Fiennes, who I did like in "Shakespeare in Love," has a tendency to talk without moving his lips and it makes him hard to understand at times. What can I say, I like my actors to enunciate. Like most new shows I haven't come to a firm conclusion as to whether or not I'll stick with "Flash Forward." I wasn't blown away like I was when I first watched "Battlestar Galactica," but I'm not turned off the way I was when I tried to watch "N.C.I.S. Los Angeles" (maybe it's me, but that show was awful). I am certainly interested enough to stick with it for awhile and see what new mysteries appear and, if I had to guess, I'd say that "Flash Forward" will be around for a few seasons.