First Look: Flash Forward
- Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Now that Lost is heading towards its final season this January, ABC thinks it can carry on the series' unique blend of adventure and metaphysical mystery with the new Flash Forward, a term used for the Lost's mind bending peeks into the future of some of the castaways. Flash Forward, loosely based on a science-fiction novel of the same name, makes the mistake of not trusting its audience. Let me explain:
The pilot episode begins with it's central protagonist, Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) an FBI agent, wakes up in his crashed vehicle to find that Los Angeles and the world, has been hit by a catastrophe caused when everyone on earth lost consciousness for over two minutes. Those who survived find that they remember what they were doing six months in the future. They mystery is what caused this and how will seeing an often disturbing glimpse of one's future affect one's present actions-the old destiny versus free-will trope.
An intriguing premise,with a far larger scale than Lost. But as the hour unfolded, I found it was giving me far too much information too quickly. Knowing the program had been previewed on Lost last year and that it must involve the same sort of complex storylines and enigmas with many characters, I was primed to watch for the little details that might be important later. Sure enough, the words "Red Panda" appear a least twice in different scenes. And close-ups of three five-point stars on a man's arm are sure to mean something. And lest we miss these clues, during the breaks, the announcer makes sure we are paying attention, telling us that these elements and the kangaroo bouncing down the street is important, so pay attention, folks!
Of course, Lost began it's pilot episode by focusing on it's chief protagonist, Jack Shepherd, pulling out from his eye to the jungle he'd just crash landed into. He leaps up to help the survivors and we gradually meet the cast. When Flash Forward's Benford begins helping surrounding survivors of the mayhem around him, it seem more than derivative, it's imitative. At one point, in the episode, there's even a billboard for Oceanic Airlines! OK, we get it, you wanna be the next Lost! Heck, it even has Dominic Monaghan, who played Lost's Charlie coming in as a character soon.
But how different from Lost, which took its sweet time letting the first season play out and kept throwing weird stuff at us with no explanation until our patience was rewarded with a little information. We weren't even sure there was a time travel element to the series until the fourth season. In Flash Forward, we start with it but are expected to be just as intrigued.
That's why I think the show doesn't trust its audience. The producers saw that Lost, er, lost a significant portion of its audience who got tired of waiting for answers and trying to keep up with the details, so they have announcers telling the attention deficient to go to the show's website for more info (and to see more network promotions) rather than allowing the innate strangeness of the concept draw us in. Flash Forward gives us mysteries, but little mystery. It can't trust its characters or plots to hook us or let us discover the clues for ourselves, one of the most enjoyable things about Lost. Perhaps it will find a way to hook us into its own complex plotting, but if you make something too easy, you're rewarding laziness. It may be that this kind of densely plotted, highly allusive narrative is simply not going to attract more than a certain number of viewers, especially if there's no endpoint in mind, as when Lost's producers discovered they needed to give their series focus and drive. They found that it's one thing to start a big story, you also have to have a final destination to hold your audience. Flash Forward didn't even start off in a fresh new way and I wonder who it will attract.
Posted by: Alex Wainer
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