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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
FLASH FORWARD (ABC)
(Thursdays at 8:00/7:00c starting this fall; TRT: 45:22)
The network's description: "When a mysterious event causes the entire world to black out, humanity is given a glimpse into its near future, and every man, woman and child is forced to come to grips with whether their destinies can be avoided or fulfilled. Adapting award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer's revolutionary novel, executive producers David S. Goyer (visionary co-writer of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight") and Brannon Braga ("24," "Star Trek: Enterprise") invite you to embark on a journey to answer the question, "if you knew what your future held, what would you do?""
What did they leave out? Dominic Monaghan is reportedly set to join the cast as, well, let's just say you'll know pretty quickly after seeing the last few seconds of the pilot. Also look for Seth MacFarlane, yes that Seth MacFarlane, as an FBI agent.
The plot in a nutshell: It starts like any other day for FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes): breakfast with his daughter; greetings to her babysitter Nicole (Peyton List); and a goodbye kiss to his doctor wife Olivia (Sonya Walger), who's sleeping off yet another late night at the hospital. At AA, his sponsor Aaron Stark (Brian O'Byrne) is bristly as usual, still haunted by the loss of his Marine daughter (Genevieve Cortese); while at work, his partner Demetri Noh (John Cho) is as chatty as ever, in this case over whether or not to use "Islands In the Stream" for the first dance at his wedding. It's during their high-speed pursuit of a pair of suspected terrorists however that his life changes forever. He experiences some sort of lucid dream in which he's pouring over a series of clues about something called Mosaic - only to be interrupted by a pair of unseen figures. And before he can make even the slightest sense of it, he wakes up to find himself in a car wreck amongst a sea of citywide panic. It turns out he wasn't the only one to blackout - Demetri, Nicole, Aaron, Olivia, everyone in Los Angeles did for what turns out be exactly two minutes and 17 seconds.
And it wasn't limited to southern California either, their boss Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) and fellow agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) explain that it was a worldwide phenomenon: planes fell out of the sky, helicopters crashed, trains derailed, cars crashed, you name it, all because no one was awake to man them. More surprisingly the "dreams" everyone had all have one thing in common: they were all about a specific date - April 29, 2010, six months from now. And while Mark's "flash forward" was about work, others' experiences ran the gamut from the silly (Wedeck was on the can) to the unexpected (Janis was pregnant) to the terrifying (Demetri didn't see anything at all). Their collective realization: a web site must be put together so people can share their experiences and - hopefully - get to the bottom of not only what is so important about that date but what caused this to happen. And as if his problems weren't big enough, Olivia's flash forward fortells a personal crisis at home. All of the above however takes a backseat when Janis stumbles across footage from a Detroit Tigers game that was going on at the time showing... well, you'll just have to wait and see.
What works: The show's concept proves to be quite a trip - not only is it spectacularly original, it also manages to tow the line between mind-bending science fiction and personal drama. From its questions about fate and destiny; its compelling central mystery; and its genuinely human window into all of the above, you've got the recipe for great television. And if it sounds a bit like "Lost" in that respect, I mean it in the best possible sense. Furthermore, it's always a treat to watch people think rather than download all the aforementioned info to us - the characters don't just tell us everyone's seeing the same day, they make a point to prove it empirically to the audience. All in all, if there ever was a show making a valiant play for my fanboy heart - this is it.
What doesn't: At the same time however I didn't quite fall in love with all of the characters. Fiennes's Mark and Walger's Olivia as leads never quite pop - sure they're TV cute (both have made a habit of joking about how much they hate each other, when they really mean love) but they don't quite have the spark that makes your stomach drop upon learning what may be in their future. A few of the flash forwards also feel a little pat and predictable - Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton), a depressed co-worker of Olivia's has his suicide attempt interrupted by said event, and now finds himself a changed man while a handful of elements (a kangaroo hops across Mark's path during the initial fallout) feel quirky for quirky's sake. There's also a slight continuity error involving when "today" actually is but that's more nitpicky than a true flaw. None of these however really takes away from the central appeal of the show, it just makes me slightly less rabid about it. Because after all, any time a show comes along that tries to swing for the fences...
The bottom line: ...I definitely find myself cheering.