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Series premiere: FlashForward

In television on 09/24/2009 at 9:28 am

Update Friday Sept. 25: After having watched Thursday’s pilot episode, I have three thoughts.
1. Despite what I’d seen in the preview, I had hoped the FBI agents in L.A. weren’t really going to attempt to solve this global crisis without contacting any other law enforcement agency, but that appears to be the silly case. And — this just in — they are going to save the world by creating a website. Lemme know how that works out. A series doesn’t have to be a slave to realism, but it does have to be believable. This save the world aspect was ridiculous.
2. However, I did mostly like it: the Oceanic billboard on a freeway overpass (iIn the dark? It’s a Lost thing. Get googlin’.). And Seth Macfarlane of Family Guy fame playing an FBI agent? Odd, but wth.
3. I was loving how the Boyfriend, called in to action to be a second dispassionate set of eyes, positively hated the entire thing. Some people! You ask them to be critics and it’s criticize this, criticize that. But the price you and I will pay for his assessment is that I have to write and you have to read the quote he has approved for publication: “If FlashForward is the future of TV, I’m getting a gym membership.”

Now then, what did you think of FlashForward? dd

Series name

Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and A Channel, repeating Friday at 8 p.m. ET on same

Regularly airs
Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and A Channel

Not so much based on as inspired by the 1998 scifi novel of the same name by Canadian Robert Sawyer, FlashForward is about what happens after everyone on Earth blacks out at the same time, each seeing a vision of the future. Or “a” future. Ah, there’s the rub. The pivotal questions: “What did you see?” and then, “Now, what do you do, or not do?”

The difference between the series and the novel, which has just been re-issued:
Both are set in 2009. The series narrows the book’s time frame: Instead of the novel’s characters seeing 21 years into the future, the characters in the series black out for 2 minutes 17 seconds and see events six months hence, on April 29, 2010. Also, the series focusses on familiar film and TV action figures — law enforcement types and doctors — and appears to be mapping out their personal and professional responses to the event. The novel (thinly written, hilariously politically incorrect, but containing a great central story)  is populated by brilliant but epically tedious, though remarkably sex-obsessed physicists and centres more on questions of fate (Is the seen future unchangeable? Is seeing the future, and acting on that knowledge, part of fate? Is your brain hurting yet?).

Primary cast and crew
Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) is Mark Benford, FBI agent (and recovering alcoholic) who is engaged in a high-speed car chase in downtown L.A. at the moment of the blackout.
John Cho (Star Trek, Harold and Kumar movies) is Demetri Noh, Benford’s partner, also in the car during the blackout.
Jack Davenport (Swingtown) is Lloyd Simcoe
Zachary Knighton (Related, Life on a Stick) is Bryce Varley, doctor with a new perspective.
Peyton List as Nicole Kirby
Dominic Monaghan (Lost) is Simon, who appears in episode 5 or 6.
Brian O’Byrne (Brotherhood, Oz) is Aaron Stark, who comes to dangling from his work harness high on an electrical pole. He is Benford’s sponsor and fellow-recovering alcoholic.
Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, ER) is Stanford Wedeck, FBI boss, who’s is captured in several of the ABC site’s promos urging his L.A. agents to put the world at ease by finding out what happened.
Sonya Walger (Lost, ) is Olivia Benford, Mark’s surgeon wife, who is in the operating room at the moment of blackout.
Brannon Braga (24, Enterprise, Voyager) and David S. Goyer (Threshhold, Blade, Batman Begins, the Dark Knight) are creators/writers/exec producers

Buzz buzz
The next Lost, with less dense storytelling and so less viewer frustration and, fingers crossed, more viewers.

But what do I know anyway? After having seen only the 17 minute “first look” on the ABC site …
Well, I tried to get a copy of the entire first episode. I really did. Several email pleas to A Channel, as a matter of fact. In response, a copy of the book arrived on Tuesday (!), though I am almost done listening to the audio book anyway. Alas, I am as helpless as you poor schlubs in the face of the massive hype and promotion for this series. The promise that this is the next Lost? I’ll buy that. What I’ve seen of the first episode looks very Lost-ish: just as Dr. Jack woke up disoriented in the jungle and soon stumbled upon a plane wreckage on the beach while people and a large engine screamed, FBI Agent Mark Benford wakes up in a car and soon stumbles onto a freeway choked with screaming hysterics, exploding vehicles and destruction as far as the eye can see. Then, flashing back four hours. Dominic Monaghan and Wonya Walger on the cast list … So, definitely some similarities. There have been adamant promises of not allowing the story or storytelling to become as dense and demanding as on Lost. Whatever. I can’t imagine not being rivetted. I will be watching with the very jaded Boyfriend, who is quite resistant to hype machines of most sorts. Then, as with all series, the test will be over the next four episodes or so. Is it more soap or complex, well-told drama? I’m hoping for the latter.

Other reviews
Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times is smitten and has already begun Lost-ish connections from the series to Joan of Arc and … Rodney King?

Jace at televisionaryblog.com has a very sturdy review with links to the original script for the pilot and detailed commentary on the strengths and flaws of the first episode. Shows great promise, says Jace.

And because Denise Duguay is almost as big on pushing books as Oprah Winfrey, here’s a link to excerpts of reviews of Sawyer’s book.

Official website
Good video, including a 17-minute sneak peek of the Sept. 24 premiere, plus basics. But tucked in at the right is a link to the Mosaic Collective, which is the data collection project started in the series (and novel) to collect and cross reference what people saw during the global blackout. I’ve added my flashforward vision. Yes, I know, I know.

Can’t wait for the next new-series preview?
I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s time to prepare for the sitcom Brothers.

Wondering when the other new series and returning series are kicking off?
Click here for my select list of fall 2009 premieres and other important dates. Who am I to tell you what to do, but you could consider bookmarking it…

— Denise Duguay


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