Saturday, 26 September 2009

Flash Forward

snapshot(7)Ok, other than Caprica, this is the new show that I have been looking forward to the most since I heard about it. Flash Forward is a drama with a Sci-Fi twist. At the exact same time, around the globe, everyone blacked out for exactly 2 minutes and 17 seconds, well, almost everyone…

That, however, has nothing to do with why I was looking forward to the show, in fact it has everything to do with the cast, in particular John Cho and Jack Davenport. John Cho is well known for his role in the stoner comedy “Harold and Kumar” however I know him from the short-lived sitcom Kitchen Confidential. He is heart-stoppingly funny in the episode “Teddy Takes Off”. While I love Jack Davenport, not for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean snapshot(10)but for his role as Steve in Coupling. Steve’s rants are somewhat legendary and a point of reference for all men everywhere.

So with two such comedic actors on board with project you wouldn’t expect the straight up, no-nonsense pilot that aired on Thursday on ABC.

The show opens with a flash forward to the moment just after the Flash Forward, (man, that’s a confusing sentence), we see the devastation that was caused by the blackouts and then we jump back to “Four Hours Earlier”. The opener of the show is just an attention grabber and nothing more, if you are watching the show because you know about it, it tells you nothing, if you don’t know snapshot(9)about the show, it intrigues you enough to watch on, end of story.

After that we work through several stories in a matter on minutes because the main aim of this pilot is to get to the “Flash Forward” as quickly as possible. We meet the hero of the story, Mark Benford, played by Joseph Finnes and his wife Olivia, portrayed by Sonya Walger. The show quickly establishes the “not perfect” nature of their marriage and then moves on. Olivia calls her a co-worker of hers, Bryce Varley, he doesn’t answer. We see him walking down the pier, where, four hours later he will attempt to commit suicide. Jump back to Mark at his AA meeting where we meet his sponsor, Aaron Stark. Aaron lost his daughter Tracy in Iraq and her remains could only be snapshot(14) identified by her DNA. But we’re not done cramming in characters yet…

We jump back to the house where Mark and Olivia’s babysitter is not doing her job, but is instead jumping her boyfriend's bones. Leaving them behind we jump to Mark and Demetri (John Cho) and it quickly becomes clear they are FBI, tailing terror suspects and discussing Demetri’s wedding plans. A chase breaks out and we know we’re closing in the opening teaser, so the Flash Forward is coming soon. We get a shot of each of the major players, Olivia is about to begin an operation at the hospital, Bryce has the gun beneath his chin, Aaron is up a telegraph pole and Mark and Demetri are racing down the highway.

Ok, all of this happens pretty quickly. There is a fair amount of character development in a short space of time and it doesn’t really feel too forced. The exciting car chase is a little coincidental but I can forgive that because it was pretty cool to watch. However, why cram all this into less than 9 minutes of airtime? Why not use the whole of the first episode to develop the snapshot(11)characters before adding the “Flash Forward” element?

Firstly, because they didn’t have to. We got enough information in those nine minutes to get us through to the end of the episode, other details could be filled in later. Secondly, word about this show has been floating around on the internet for months now, as well as the show being based on a novel that’s been around for 10 years, so getting right down to the essence of the show quickly was important, because most people knew where it was going anyway.

What didn’t work for me was the aftermath of the Flash. Sure the destruction was handled well and the tension moments were nice, with Mark and Demetri not knowing if there families were safe. Even the discovery that the black out had been worldwide was handled reasonably well. But then came the exposition bit…

There was a sequence shot in the foyer of the FBI building where boss, Stan Wedeck, Mark, Demetri and Janis Hawk discuss the event and there was so much exposition they might as well have just scrolled text up the screen. Mark’s sudden expression in the board meeting about the Flash felt forced and the resulting confessions from everyone else felt unnatusnapshot(12)ral. I can see why it was done that way, for speed, for simplicity but I think it could have been handled better.

The rest of the pilot revolves around Mark setting up a task force to find out what happened and how and why and if it might happen again. Mark recalls details from his flashback with stunning clarity (although, his training as an FBI agent could account for this, maybe) and he and Demetri begin to put together a “big board”

Meanwhile we get to know what the other characters saw. Olivia, for example, saw herself with another man, Jack Davenport, who it turns out is the father of a child she saved after the Flash. Aaron, discovers that his daughter, Tracy,(Genevieve Cortese a.k.a new Ruby in Supernatural) is alive. Bryce believes his vision snapshot(13)was a gift from God that saved him from killing himself, while Demetri believes that he will die in the next six months because he saw nothing.

Finally, the “Doof” moment comes as Janis Hawk, the third member of Mark's new team, discovers that while everyone else was blacked-out someone was still awake.

I’ll be honest, until that moment I wasn’t really seeing where the show was going. Sure we know its heading towards April 29th but other than that the flashes are pretty mundane, the idea that the government can map out the future through an internet blog is kind of interesting but still, it wouldn’t make for a great show. However in the last seconds of the pilot, we finally get a shady character, shrouded in mystery. Is he a good guy bad guy, snapshot(8)innocent bystander or something else completely? Well I guess we’ll have to tune in next week and find out.

You would be forgiven for thinking I didn’t enjoy the pilot. I did, it was interesting enough to keep my attention and it was great to see John Cho and Jack Davenport back on the small screen again. I can certainly see potential in the show now that all that pesky explanation is out of the way and we can get down to see real drama. I’m definitely going to give it the benefit of the doubt…

This has been My Two Cents… Coming soon Dollhouse, season 2…

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