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Monday, November 14, 2011

Flash Forward

Chaos reigns in Los Angeles after a mysterious event causes everyone in the world to lose consciousness at exactly the same moment. Was it an act of nature? Something man-made gone wrong, or something even more sinister? Whatever it was, every person on Earth blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds and sees a series of events from their own future, taking place on April 29, 2010 at 10:00 p.m. For some the future will be joyous and hopeful; for others, shockingly unexpected; and for a few, it simply doesn’t seem to exist. Knowing their fate will alter each person’s life in one way or another and poses the questions: Can destiny be changed? And by changing just one destiny, what effect would that have on those of others?
The key character is Mark (Joseph Fiennes), an FBI agent who ends up working on unraveling the mystery of the event; his partner, wife, young daughter, babysitter, and AA sponsor are also involved. The worldwide nature of the experience leaves lots of room for peripheral characters to move in and out of focus.

So The FlashForward journey has come to an end, as ABC pulls the plug on the show after one season…why?
The show had been struggling both critically and commercially or because of the book?

FlashForward is inspired by Robert J. Sawyer's novel :

When a book is re-released as a tie-in (showing not the original cover artwork but a teaser for a TV series or movie), it all but guarantees that readers will compare the book to the new work inspired by it.  I found the concept behind the series as intriguing as I found the execution maddening. there is little more frustrating than seeing a brilliant concept wasted.

 What did I find so intriguing? Both versions concern a unique large-scale disaster: two minutes when every human being on Earth simultaneously falls unconscious. Obviously, there is immediate devastation as millions die from falling, car crashes, botched surgery, and so on. Beyond setting up an intriguing science-fictional disaster scenario, however, Sawyer added another twist: those who survive awaken with a vision of their own future (in a shared human vision of a moment either six months or thirty years ahead, depending on whether you're watching TV or reading the book). Not only must those who remain bury their dead and heal their injured, they also have to deal with a profound metaphysical shock, one that raises complex issues of free will and temporal logic. Not only that, but a portion see nothing at all, implying they will be dead by the time the day of the visions arrives.

What I found incredibly frustrating about FlashForward, the television series, was the way it took this fantastic concept and buried it in a slightly futuristic procedural police drama about the brave FBI agents who investigate the crisis. The initial twenty minutes of the show -- along with occasional other sequences such as a slow-motion set piece accompanied by Björk's "It's Oh So Quiet" playing on a victim's headphones -- did a fantastic job of depicting the devastation such an event would cause. All too often, however, the FlashForward is relegated to the background, depicted merely as a few damaged buildings (just how many planes would really hit metropolitan skyscrapers in two minutes of unconsciousness?) while the characters played out uninteresting personal drama. Even worse, the deeper metaphysical issues of what it means to see the future were rarely played out to their full potential.

Perhaps it's to be expected, but the two versions of the story have almost diametrically opposed strengths. I actually found the initial moments of the disaster poorly executed in Sawyer's book. The action felt either campy or too distant, by turns. In what seems like mere moments after the FlashForward itself, two of the main characters (scientists Lloyd and Michiko) are able take a stroll to the nearby school attended by Michiko's daughter without much incident in their travels. The first part also suffered by being the most dated portion of the book: it seemed like characters spent far too much time struggling with VCRs and fax machines.

But Robert J. Sawyer's FlashForward excels in bringing us into the philosophical sides of the disaster's aftermath. Characters feel far more real than their television counterparts; we follow a number of scientists working at CERN's Large Hardron Supercollider as they attempt to simultaneously understand their own role in the event as well as their own visions of the future. Many of these conflicts are reproduced on television (with more photogenic FBI agents and doctors replacing scientists) but are populated by such stock characters that we never learn to care about them. Not so with the book, where I genuinely wanted to see the nerdy scientists become happy and successful.

FlashForward” stars Joseph Fiennes as Mark Benford, John Cho as Demetri Noh, Jack Davenport as Lloyd Simcoe, Zachary Knighton as Bryce Varley, Peyton List as Nicole Kirby, Dominic Monaghan as Simon, Brían F. O’Byrne as Aaron Stark, Courtney B. Vance as Stanford Wedeck, Sonya Walger as Olivia Benford and Christine Woods as Janis Hawk.

For Episode list

For download (torrent)

For the book see

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