Flash Forward: Season 1
After watching television for well over five decades, I have to admit that have become just a bit jaded. During this time I have become a fan of shows in every conceivable genre and thought I had encountered every conceivable variation of theme and presentation. It doesn’t happen often, but every so often a new series comes along with the promise of something fresh and new. In September of 2009, one such show premiered on the ABC television network; ‘Flash Foreword.' Even the promos that usually are nothing more than hype seemed to peak my interest. The premise is rather simple. At precisely 11 a.m. one Sunny Californian morning, every human being on the planet loses consciousness remaining that way for exactly two minutes and seventy seconds. Technically speaking this was not a mass blackout; almost every person has a dreamlike vision of events that would happen six months in the future on April 29, 2010. Right there the shoe had grabbed my attention. Unfortunately, personal circumstances prevented me from watching a couple of the first episodes which interrupted the flow of the plot for me. Since ABC is extremely good with releasing their shows on DVD, I decided to wait. Well, there must have been a lot of people who had some trouble getting into the shows so initially, the studio decided to increase ratings by releasing a set of ten episodes on the disc in advance of completing the season. The series returned with the final 13 episodes which eventually lead to the late summer release of the entire season. Unfortunately, the series was not renewed and joins the ever-growing list of shows canceled before they can grow towards achieving their potential.
. Some series come off better if you can just sit back and immerse yourself in a marathon of episodes. When the screener came, I sat down with my best friend who also interrupted his initial viewing, and we both were able to gain a completely different opinion of the series. The program is intriguing, imaginative and most importantly, highly entertaining. At least now with the complete series on DVD, you can give it the attention required to follow the myriad of intrigue and misdirection contained within it. The series did fall to circumstances not under the control of the produces with splitting the seasoned chief among the factors leading to its early demise. It also didn’t help that the main producers in charge of running the series kept changing. To effectively build suspense, it is vital to have a strong sense of continuity. Breaking the series artificially and changing the leadership doomed the series.
The story was adapted for television from the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, handling the majority of the scripting are the series’ creators Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer. Both of these men are extremely well known especially in the world of television science fiction. Braga served as the heir apparent to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry working on most of the Star Trek franchise both on TV and film. He also did extensive work on ‘24’ and the brilliant but quickly canceled ‘Threshold.' Goyer is also well up to the task of a groundbreaking series of this sort. He worked with Braga on ‘Threshold’ and the popular ‘Blade’ franchise. This is such a tricky combination of genres that the only chance for success was to place the story in hands as capable as these. One of the most appealing aspects of this series is how the writers masterfully blend of character-driven drama with a tautly crafted mystery set against the backdrop of insightful science fiction.
At the start of the series, FBI Special Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is with his partner Demetri Noh (John Cho) hot on the trail of suspected domestic terrorist. The next thing Mark knows the car is upside down, crashed. As he pulls himself out of the wreckage, he looks around at a city in the middle of chaos and mayhem. He is surrounded by the dead and injured. Cars and buildings are engulfed in flames as people scream in terror. Slowly the people revive and gradually a few of the pieces fall into place. Once the agents realize that the visions, now called flash forwards, were actual glimpses into that specific day in the future, Mark concludes his vision contained clues as to what caused the blackouts. This is one of the first little quirks that provide a lot of potentials. Although there is no real time travel, they do introduce a typical time travel paradox. Mark is tracking down clues he saw in his vision; a case of circular causality. When he finds a clue, he places on a corkboard, but he went after the clue because in his vision he saw it on that very same board. The team decides that it is up to them to get to the bottom of things and starts an ad hoc task force which includes creating a website to gather vision details from all over the world. Soon some details begin to emerge about the coming date and what caused the entire matter. This in itself makes for excellent TV, but these master class storytellers know that to work out they need to present another layer to the audience.
The deeper layer of the plot resides on a more personalized reaction to the event. While the FBI is busy tracking down what happened and why a single person was caught awake on a stadium security camera, the flash forward visions are extracting a personal toll on many. Mark is a recovering alcoholic, but in his vision, he was back to drinking heavily. His wife, surgeon Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger) saw herself in a romantic situation with another man. The most disturbing are what Demetri sees or rather doesn’t see. He had no vision at all and came to presume that means he would not be alive when that day in April rolls around. The issues that now plague humanity strike at the very core of most belief systems and religions. The ability to see six months into the future than it would provide evidence supporting destiny rather than self-determination. Then there were some who took the visions as a warning to a mutable future. This is not your typical moral dilemmas portrayed by a network series, even one with a Sci-Fi inclination. In the book, the period between the event and the targeted date was twenty years, not a mere six months. On the surface that seems like a bad move on the part of the producers. With only a few months the series has to move along very rapidly. Two decades would have given the writers more time to develop the secondary plots necessary if the series is to last more than a season or two. It might have been better for this to be a miniseries or limited-run series, but the potential for this format does exist. The pacing is much slower than typically acceptable for standard broadcast TV. They take a leisurely time in building a foundation and getting to what most would consider ‘action.' I liked that approach which is a refreshing change from the fast food pacing every other show seems to have. With all that said this is still well worth getting into this program. The writing is excellent, the direction impeccable and the series boast a talented ensemble cast. Enjoy this on disc; quality like this is rare but now has an opportunity to live on in this form.
Posted 08/30/2010 10/23/2017