Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blah to the Future

Grade: B-

I know I'm a week behind, but I just caught the pilot to FlashForward, ABC's newest attempt to imitate its success with Lost. And I have to say, I'm disappointed. It's not that I was expecting Lost-level quality. That's far too much to ask. But while the concept is certainly a good one, the execution just isn't.

First off, I'm not bringing up Lost just cause this is a genre show on ABC - FlashForward does everything it possibly can to make you think of it, especially in its direct rip-off opening scene. Beginning with a close-up of its male lead waking up from unconsciousness (face, not eye, huge difference), the sounds of people screaming are gradually heard as our lead discovers the wreckage around him. There's even a sudden explosion. If you substitute the word "car" with "plane," it's Lost. When you toss in Penny and (later) Charlie as cast members and an Oceanic Airlines poster in the background, it's clear what the goal is.

Stepping aside from the easy comparisons though, let's look at what FlashForward is on its own. At the exact same time, everyone in the world passes out and has visions of April 29th at 10 PM. Well, not everyone - John Cho's character has the misfortune of being visionless, leaving him to spend the next 6 months wondering if he's doomed to die before then. Voldemort's brother sees himself leading an investigation into the event. His wife, Penny, sees herself with another man (sadly not Desmond). And a man on the brink of suicide sees himself alive.

So ok, that's a great idea for a show. You get to see what happens between point A and point B, and try to figure out whether they can change their fates or not. There's all sorts of mysteries, the coolest one being what's up with the one person on the planet who didn't get knocked out during the event. You can imagine all sorts of twists and turns to come along the way.

So what's wrong? Pretty much everything else. Despite aiming for Lost, the quality just feels B-level. The dialogue is continually laughable, the acting never quite convincing (which I'll blame on the writing, not the cast), and the general tone muffled and plodding. Worse, none of the characters really stand out as people you care where they are 6 months from now. Since most of the mysteries are character-based, that's no good. Also, it's too aware of the strength of its concept. The entire pilot consists of a series of "what did you see in your flash forward?" "Oh, I saw this, what did you see in your flash forward?" It's like "Real World: Visionquest." Yawn.

Because the concept does intrigue me, and because there's only so many shows that even put in the effort of trying to break new ground, I'll give this one three episodes before making up my mind. But I can tell you now that this has much more in common with Heroes, Prison Break, and, yes, The Nine - all shows that tried to be the next Lost and ultimately settled for something less. For another low-grade genre show, it could do the trick. But for something to replace Lost's ability to wow, I'm still waiting.

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