Flash Burn

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FlashForward ended the other week, in one of those unfortunate ways where shooting on the show has wrapped before a decision was made on its return. Some shows are experts at this – see the Friday Night Lights bittersweet Season 3 finale – in terms of walking the fine line between closure and cliffhanger…FF was not. It was fully a set-up for the next few years of the series, that we’ll never see.

FF was one of the most hyped shows of the fall 2009 line-up, along with Glee and The Good Wife. It was hailed as the next show to take on the Lost title (although who exactly wants that now is a good question), in fact, the same Entertainment Weekly reporter that was dedicated to Lost ‘Doc’ Jeff Jensen, also zoned in on the show. That is, until a couple of shark-jumping moments in the latter half of season 1 regarding a double agent / lesbian-temporarily-goes-hetero-sex-encounter situation with one of the (originally) best characters on the show, Janice.

So what went wrong?
Giant Cast – yes other shows have had giant casts (Lost anyone? 16 initial principals? I mean really!), but in the case of Lost, all of the castaways were in one centralized location, making it pretty easy to pick up character names, roles, and traits rapidly. And what you didn’t know about someone immediately – as in the case of the relatively enigmatic Hurley of Season 1 – was okay, because you got to play a guessing game until you downloaded a huge package of information during their flashbacks. In FF, the characters were all over the map and loosely connected (Nicole and Bryce for example…she was a haphazard nanny for 5 seconds and a burgeoning medical force for the rest of the series, with no education and a crazy mom). The flashforwards did not serve as information dumps, and the characters were only sort of loosely tied to their professions as doctors, FBI agents, and scientists – it affected the plot, but not the characters. Also the fringe characters – Zoe and Keiko for example – didn’t really get a lot of play. There were just too many stories to ‘care’ about, when Mark’s was the most important one all along, and it became one giant muddled mess.

Follow-Through – unlike Lost, FF never followed through on any of the potentially detrimental events revealed in the flashforwards. Demetri lived, Mark lived, Olivia remained (somewhat) faithful, D Gibbons being a bad man related to fridge magnets, and the Terrence Howard-lookalike CIA agent wasn’t really evil. In fact, while the show was somewhat about challenging fate versus destiny (a major theme of Lost), the whole premise of the FlashForwards kind of fell flat when the majority of them didn’t exactly come true. The awareness of the moments shown in the ff’s made it kind of anti-climactic.

Dead Mysteries – similar to the above point, it seemed like one too many mysteries didn’t feel like they were properly resolved. Somalia, D Gibbons, the Kangaroo (!), the blue hand club, Suspect Zero and who Simon is working for etc. Although I appreciated the show gave us ‘answers’, the huge sprawling storylines and cast made it hard to accept them.

I don’t know. I don’t really feel like writing much more on the subject. I still liked FlashForward and watched it to the end, but I’m not entirely surprised, especially as I write this, that the show was cancelled. It just never felt cohesive enough to really work, especially when you consider the show was about a *global* event as opposed to a plane of some 300 odd people. Another thing someone wisely pointed out was that with all of the Lost copycats, all of them have had the mystery built in to the first episode of the series, indeed, in the pre-show hype. Lost’s genius was in the fact the show was very much about real people in a real situation – stranded on an island – with mere glimpses of the bigger issue at hand, at least in the beginning.

Of the little bit I know on the fall 2010 line-up, networks are moving away from heavily cohesive, serial dramas, especially in the sci fi department. Instead we’re getting a lot more procedurals, which I like to call ‘monsters of the week’ in reference to the first bland but wacky season of Buffy. I doubt I’ll pick up any new shows…but we’ll see. If only I had a FlashForward?

- Britt’s On

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