My Favorite Show of the New Season: FlashForward (Originally published September 28, 2009)

It's good. Trust me.

I love Lost.  I have all four seasons on DVD, am waiting patiently for the fifth season’s disc release, and will probably cry when the show ends in May.  I’m pretty sure ABC will do the same, as the show has been a consistent ratings hit (i.e. golden calf) for them for the past five years.  That’s why they’re desperately scrambling to find their next Lost-caliber show, and I think they may have done so with FlashForward.

I watched the pilot episode of FlashForward last week and can say I’m hooked.  It’s got a kooky high concept, a huge cast with lots of storytelling potential, and most importantly, the network’s backing in things like promotion.  It starts strong, establishes its characters well, and ends on a very gripping cliffhanger that should guarantee a large percentage of its premiere viewers—it got a 4.1 rating (pretty damn good)—returning to watch episode two this Thursday.

For those of you who haven’t seen the thousands of commercials for it, the concept is pretty easy to understand.  The entire world blacks out for two minutes and change and, while passed out, they experience visions of their future, specifically on April 29, 2010 at 10:00 p.m.  The crux of the storyline involves the FBI trying to solve the case of who put this global phenomenon into effect, and the mysteries surrounding such a massive undertaking.

The coolest thing about the show, to me, is the serialized style they’re implementing, much like that other favorite show of mine.  I love getting immersed in something and making sure I catch it every week.  I want to obsess over stuff, and this series (I hope) will provide something for me to obsess over.  The producers of the show clearly have a plan for what they want to do, offering key glimpses of what’s to come in FBI agent Mark Benford’s (Joseph Fiennes) vision of the future, of him going over a massive board of conspiracies involving the blackouts.  Numerous faces, numbers, and words tacked to the board indicate this is going to be a very complex, thinking person’s show.

The executive producers mentioned above also offer a lot of faith.  David Goyer worked on the stories and scripts for Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, both of which were universally considered great.  Brannon Braga works on the show that kick started the whole serialized TV show genre, 24, bringing with him a vast amount of knowledge of how to run a series like this.  Marc Guggenheim has worked on several shows and also wrote some very entertaining comic books, most notably Spider-Man.  These guys should keep the narrative on track and not get too bogged down in mundane soap operatic stories.

Of course, there’s some bad to it.  While the pilot was very, very good, it wasn’t the best ever.  It kind of glazed over the fact that hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people would have died in car accidents, plane crashes, etc., leaving devastation nobody could even dream of.  We got a glimpse of it in the opening scenes but it seemed pretty tame compared to what it could have been.  I understand that this is TV, and budget constraints played a role in all of this, but a few more scenes of people bewildered by the destruction around them would have sufficed.  Beside that, the only major problem I had was with the dialogue in certain scenes.  It just seemed tacky to constantly refer to the visions by the title of the show (“In my flashforward,” was used several times) instead of simply calling them something less clunky like “flashes” or anything similar to that.

Beyond those minor glitches in the script, there really wasn’t much to complain about.  The acting was great, and seems to indicate this will be another character-centric sci-fi tale as opposed to the wooden acting and terrible production values of all those syndicated science fiction shows.  I particularly enjoyed Benford’s partner Demetri (played by Harold himself, John Cho), as he is terrified he’s going to be dead by the flash date, as he didn’t have one.   The realization that Benford, a former alcoholic, is drinking again in his flash, is also a nice dramatic touch.

If the ratings keep up, I can see this show lasting for several years, developing mysteries, deepening character relationships, and offering up all kinds of crazy action before having a huge, satisfying finale.  The producers say they know where every twist and turn leads, so stalling should not be a big problem, story-wise.  So, if you want to be entertained, give FlashForward a shot.


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