FlashForward began with a kick ass premise: On a regular day the entire world’s population simultaneously blacked out for 137 seconds. Those people who didn’t die in a car crash or when their bus took a dunk in a lake or by some other horrible accident experienced a “flashfoward” showing them a moment in their life approximately six months into the future. The entire phenomenon sends the world into chaos. Who or what caused the world to lose consciousness at the same time and could it happen again? Are these premonitions the truth? And what about those folks who only saw black? Are they to assume that they are dead in six months? Most of those people do. This overall mystery is at the heart of ABC’s latest sci-fi adventure/drama.
FlashForward premiered to huge ratings last fall, but has seen its audience taper off steadily. The series went on hiatus in December and the network has wisely released this DVD set containing the first ten episodes before FlashForward returns to the air on March 10. Anyone who missed an episode or anyone who is was interested by was afraid they would be lost because the missed early episodes can now give the show a look and decide whether it’s for them.
I found FlashForward compelling enough that I kept watching every episode, even though I have some problems with it, the least of which is star Joseph Fiennes American accent. To my ears it sounds odd, leading me to ask why he can’t just use his natural voice. Fiennes portrays FBI agent Benford. In a post 9/11 world, is it so out of the question that an Englishman to be working for the FBI? Makes sense to me. My chief problem with FlashForward is the tendency of the writers to have characters repeat information over and over. This is especially annoying when you’ve just watched a “previously on FlashFoward” montage; and then one to two minute into the episode a main character explains, almost in detail, what you’ve just been told…. one to two minutes ago!
Case in point: John Cho is agent Noh, Benford’s partner. Noh is one of those characters that did not have a flashforward and thus, he is slowly starting to question whether he’s going to die soon. It doesn’t help that he gets a mysterious phone call from an anonymous caller who tells him the exact day he will be murdered. Needless to say, Noh is a little edgy. The poor guy is engaged and he’s keeping the information from his fiancé (which is an excellent way to form a healthy relationship), so he’s a little edgy. It seems that whenever Noh goes off on his partner, Benford’s response is: “We need to talk about how you didn’t have a flashforward and now you think that you’re going to die in six months.” It is the most unnaturally written dialogue ever and it takes you out of the moment.
That is just one example, but FlashForward is constantly resorting to this weak, outdated manner of writing that just doesn’t cut it in a TV landscape that has given us Battlestar Galactica and Lost. Sure, FlashForward is pulp entertainment, but it doesn’t have to be so clunky. And when viewing episodes back to back on DVD, this flaw only becomes more apparent.
Each character has a compelling storyline. Among the main characters are Fiennes’s Benford, a recovering alcoholic whose marriage nearly collapsed due to his job and drinking. In his flashforward, he is seen working late in the office with a flask in his hand. As masked gunmen approached, he woke up. Benford’s wife is Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger, aka Penny from Lost). She is a brilliant surgeon who loves her husband but is exasperated by this whole flashforward business. She doesn’t believe it. In her vision she saw herself involved with another man. Agent Benford learns this and becomes jealous, especially when the man in Olivia’s flashforward turns up in her hospital. He is Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport) an academic who may have something to do with the whole blackout. Later on in the first ten episodes, we learn that Jack is in cahoots with Dominic Monaghan’s Simon Campos. Simon is a character you’re not sure you can trust.
Each of these characters lives seem to be intertwined in some manner, leading us to believe there is always more than meets the eye in this show (isn’t there always?).
The overall production value of FlashForward is excellent. Direction, cinematography and all of the actors are outstanding (Fiennes accent aside). In particular I really enjoy what Brian F. O’Byrne has done in the role of Aaron, Benford’s AA sponsor who is dealing with shock of his daughter’s death in Afghanistan. Just as he’s beginning to accept that she is dead, the flashforwards occur. In his, Aaron sees himself sitting by his daughter’s bedside and she is alive. Aaron struggles to make sense of his vision and O’Byrne brings a great deal of pain and spiritual struggle to his character. I have found this performance fascinating.
Despite ABC’s attempts to position FlashForward as the new Lost, it’s too soon to hand the sci-fi/wacky drama crown over to the freshman series. It’s true that with Lost wrapping up its run this spring, the network is in need of another epic, episodic program. Perhaps the pressure to achieve greatness is so extreme that it’s bearing down on the production. FlashForward still has a chance to achieve some greatness; hopefully the hiatus, and this DVD set, will help the producers look back and build on the promise of that kick ass premise.
purchase from Amazon: DVD