Thursday, October 1, 2009

Back to the Future?

FlashForward - "No More Good Days" (Pilot episode)

When ABC's Lost became a big hit soon after it premiered in 2004, every network scrambled to find a show that might equal it. After many failures, it looks like we finally have a winner in FlashForward.

This series, developed by David S. Goyer (of big screen superhero movie fame) and Brannon Braga (of Star Trek fame/infamy) from the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, has a great idea at its core: what if everyone in the world "blacked out" at the same time and experienced for 2 minutes and 17 seconds a vision of their future, a flashforward? Those futures could be anything from sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper to cheating on your spouse. Or maybe you experienced nothing at all (does that mean you are dead?).

A great cast is assembled for this adventure including Joseph Fiennes and John Cho as FBI Agents Mark Benford and Demetri Noh; Lost veteran Sonya Walger (she was Penny, Desmond's "constant") is Olivia a doctor and Benford's wife; Irish actor Brian F. O'Byrne is Mark's AA sponsor; and Courtney B. Vance is the FBI supervisor. ER vet Alex Kingston is a guest star, as is Michael Mann company player Barry Shabaka Henley. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane even wrangles a cameo appearance (it never hurts to have a hugely popular show under your belt).

As the story opens, Benford and Noh are in pursuit of terrorist suspects in Los Angeles when the world goes wonky. This was a one of the better TV car chases I've seen, proving the only way to do action like that for television is in a pilot episode when they usually spend more money (24 take note). Kudos also to the visual effects team: the scenes of a devastated L.A. in the aftermath of the flashforward were scary and awe inspiring at the same time. Nothing was over done, or worse, looked cheap. A few words well-acted can convey information better than thousands and thousands of dollars of CGI.

We quickly learn that this wasn't confined to one city or one country but was a phenomenon that was experienced by the entire world. Think about what that means for a second. When was the last time the world was united by a common bond or occurence? The first moon landing comes to mind, but that's it. And that was only people with televisions and radios tuned in. Billions of people around the world went about their lives without paying attention to Armstrong and Aldrin's human adventure in July of 1969.

I hope the FlashForward writers explore at least in part that aspect of this story. At least four times in this episode characters brought up God, as in it was an act of God or a sign or warning from God, at least one thought it was a blessing. If the whole world blacked out at the exact same time, what would the Pope say. Or the senior most rabbis of Judaism or the Muslim imams? What about the Hindus and the Buddhists? You know that someone would start a cult or some other type of movement around the flashforward. I hope the reimagined Battlestar Galactica was not the first and last science fiction show to bring up the subject of religion.

I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. It sets up a very intriguing premise in the flashforward - was it natural, was it a weird cosmic ray storm, did Fringe's Walter Bishop leave an experiment running while he went to the little boy's room, or was it something else? It also brings up the old conundrum of if we know our future can we change it (even just a little), or are we doomed to follow a certain path? (This is something perhaps the wonky Terminator movie series caretakers should have thought about just a wee bit more.)

It set up some neat shocks and twists and turns I won't go into (watch it on if you missed it!). FlashForward seems to be taking a page from Fringe and painting their mythology in broader, easier to follow strokes and not the mystifying, dizzying and more than a bit confusing ultra-fine details of Lost.

I read recently that the FF writers know their ultimate mythology, down to the last few episodes, as opposed to Lost not having an endgame when they shot the pilot and having to make it up during those first two seasons. Let's hope ABC is smart enough to let the producers have their three to five seasons to let this fascinating story play out.

And for goodness sakes do NOT do what Lost did and have the "Tailies" show up in the second season and displace your entire main cast. Unless, of course, you saw it in a flashforward vision.

No comments:

Post a Comment