Since The X-Files, Fringe, and Angel's “freak of the week” paradigm has been done before and the mentally intuitive faux psychics who “see” clues currently populate two additional networks via USA's Psych and CBS' The Mentalist, the only thing left was to add in a dash of The 4400 and Philip K. Dick (especially Next and Minority Report) to create the newest Twilight Zone of science fiction television.
Yet, unlike some of the aforementioned shows, what separates ABC's new stunner FlashForward from the rest of the pack is that it's deeply rooted in reality. And likewise, the thing that makes it work so brilliantly is the show's steadfast approach that everything will remain similar to any other television criminal investigation or medical drama procedural series in spite of one minor science fiction detail that's afflicted everyone rather than a chosen 4400, a pie maker (Pushing Daisies) or a computer tech named Chuck.
The result is a “six degrees of separation” large ensemble drama that occupies the popular TV terrain of work and family in public service professions like medicine, law, and criminal justice.
Originally developed at HBO but optioned out to ABC, the first ten episodes that have aired prior to the series' hiatus and still somewhat uncertain future before it picks up on March 18 have been released as a two-disc set from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Insanely addictive, the series opens with a pilot that-- despite logic reminding me how much was probably done with green screen CGI technology-- nonetheless looks like it had the budget of a big screen disaster film on par with 2010 as unexpectedly, the entire human population around the globe loses consciousness for exactly 137 seconds.
Initially called a blackout, the freak occurrence that screeched everything to a halt--whether a person was flying a 747 or walking down the street-- is soon referred to as a “flashforward” after it becomes apparent that individuals were able to see 137 seconds of their lives six months in the future on April 29, 2010.
With no idea what caused the event and despite the fact that his own “flashforward” revealed that the recovering alcoholic seven-years-sober will fall off the wagon by April 29, 2010, Los Angeles FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) becomes both proactive and determined to use the other information he can remember from his slightly drunken haze, which included a huge board of clues he was piecing together that slowly reveal themselves.
Wondering if they can change fate or if what they saw was actually all just a dream or if they're now taking part in a self-fulfilling prophecy to make certain things come true like Mark's board of leads, a formerly suicidal doctor's pursuit for the Japanese woman he'll fall in love with in the future, or a single lesbian agent's shock to find herself pregnant in April, the interconnected cast of characters go about their lives nonetheless.
Logging their visions online to cross-reference with others who may have been in the same flash and realizing eerily that it checks out, Agent Benford is professionally in hot pursuit but personally tormented when he discovers that his wife Olivia's flash showed her living with another man she's never met in their home.
When the man manifests as the father of one of her patients who lost his wife in the flash, Olivia (Sonya Walger) does everything she can to avoid being alone with him since his own flash didn't reveal her face to him fully yet when Mark starts becoming jealous of an affair that hasn't even occurred in reality, it illustrates the delicate nature of the problems that go along with an entire population that's seen something they definitely shouldn't have until it's actually happening.
However, when they learn that one man didn't fall down like everyone else, walking right through a stadium during the 137 seconds and others realize they're dead when they fail to see anything in their future, things take a much more mysterious turn.
Soon evolving into a gigantic mystery that involves political intrigue, surprising discoveries surrounding friends, family including those we thought we'd lost, when two physicists begin quarreling over whether or not an experiment they were working on caused it, a Nazi prisoner says he'll tell them the cause in exchange for his release, and the name D. Gibbons starts cropping up out of the woodwork, FlashForward becomes one highly charged thriller that just gets better as it continues.
With so many characters, sometimes it takes us a moment or two to get our bearings straight and likewise, it does suffer from the soap opera complex of people sharing the same information to different characters on camera numerous times so that running time is wasted with repetition to bring everyone up to speed again and again, FlashForward therefore makes for ideal DVD viewing to immerse yourself in the complex puzzle.
Using Robert J. Sawyer's 1999 novel of the same name as a jumping-off-point, while it's safe to say that to sustain the momentum-- like Life on Mars-- FlashForward will most likely be best served by a limited run at most of perhaps one season since the six month time-line ensures that questions will be answered fate-wise sooner than factually, meaning our interest will wane if stretched out longer.
However, while it keeps this level of sophistication and drama going, it makes for terrifically compelling viewing from a refreshingly scripted series rooted in familiarity from both science fiction and procedural dramas that nonetheless you can't in the least bit predict... at least without a “flashforward” of your own.
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Labels: TV on DVD