Jun 24, 2010

[TV] FlashForward: Season 1

Despite best efforts, there's something that is bound to be lost during translations across mediums. While I never read the book this was based on, clearly something went wrong in terms of how this was brought from the page to the small screen. But then again, I have rather low expectations of Hollywood, what more network television.

Still, there are shows that start out somewhat strong and seem to have all the right elements in place for it to become something far greater and yet in the end things just go wrong. How to determine what happened or what made things go so wrong is a tad tricky, to say the least, since it's usually a combination of many issues coming together. It makes me start thinking about the whole Seconds From Disaster documentary show that tries to trace back the chain of events that leads to a catastrophe.

This is just a review of the show's first and only season though and not such a dissection. I'm sure to touch on what went wrong (like I could ever prevent myself from doing so) but this shouldn't be too different from my other posts. At least that's the theory at this point.

FlashForward is based on a book of the same name and covers the strange series of events after a worldwide blackout. But this isn't about a power outage but instead the whole world simultaneously losing consciousness for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During this small fraction of time, everyone on the planet pretty much gained a glimpse of the world of the future roughly six months hence. Upon waking up, the world now has to live with the fact that the future that they saw may be inevitable whether they like it or not.

PASADENA, CA - AUGUST 8: Actors Sonya Walger a...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
At the center of the story is FBI Special Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) and his partner Demitri Noh (John Cho) who start an investigation into the reasons for the blackout. This was mainly because Mark saw a vision of him leading this very same task force while Demitri didn't see anything. Mark's wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) is a doctor and her version implied she was romantically involved with a man later revealed to be physicist Dr. Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport). Dr. Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton) is a surgical intern working under her who has visions of being in love with a mysterious Japanese girl he has never met before.

There are other characters still like Special Agent Janis Hawk (Kristine Woods) who saw she was pregnant in the future, their boss Assistant Director Standford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) who only had a vision of being in the bathroom. Then you get the key plot devices like Dr. Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan), who is Lloyd's partner and is later revealed to be somehow connected to the blackout despite his denials.

I liked the show concept when things started and given the rather rich and diverse cast in the show, it looked this this was going to be a real winner. Then of course thing started to get weird, then they got silly then it just stopped making sense all together. Let's look at their big plans - the whole world gets a strange glimpse of the future and these FBI guys decide to put together a social network to post their dreams! Plus there's the non-stop questioning about  "what did you see" that everyone has to ask within the first half of the season. It was interesting the first few times but in the end it was just annoying.

The decision to go with a lengthy mid-season break was definitely a strange one and I think it did more harm than good. It broke at a strange point in the story that did not feel like a logical break in the narrative and then when it came back, it didn't do so strongly. Towards the end they tried to throw in radical plot twists and such but then given the many minor plot lines they were juggling at the same time (hello Afghanistan dad!), they ended up not telling a higher quality story overall. Plus the actors got rather hammy (I'm looking at you Fiennes) or were just out of their dept (and that would be you John Cho). In the end it all felt like the story wanted to go into too many different directions and then it all just fell apart.

It's no wonder why the ratings eventually killed this show. Despite a strong-ish start to the whole series, it totally fumbled the ball in the end. And that really felt like such a waste since there's so little science fiction on network television to have this show go away as well.

FlashForward was a nice attempt with a strong concept but I don't regret seeing it go away. I do regret the fact that somehow the remake of V survived. It gets 2 annoying repetitions of Mark Benford's drunked vision of the future out of a possible 5.
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