This is quite a complex setup and we have to wonder just how long Michael, and the series, can keep this balancing act going. When Dr. Lee tells Michael that if he continues the shift between these two worlds, one waking, one sleeping, he risks his sanity. But his patient calmly responds, "When you see a loved one buried, you have one thought over and over again, that you would do anything, anything, to get them back. So if you're telling me that the price of seeing them, feeling them, of having them in my life is my sanity, it's price I will happily pay. . . when it comes to letting one of them go, I have no desire to ever make progress."

That's a resolution and a series premise that will be tested as we follow the determined father, husband and detective through his waking and sleeping life. One wonders which life is real, or, for that matter is either? We learn in the second episode that there are scenes in both worlds where Michael is absent and we see other characters that he doesn't see. This, the show's creator, Kyle Killen explains, is a dramatic necessity, for story exposition, rather than a clue as to which world is real. In the second episode, we learn that Michael's superior has met with a man who was supposed to have made sure that the entire family died in the accident. But again, is this the dream world or reality? 

Audiences may have a tough time with such a strange and challenging plot, which requires a two-sided scorecard to keep track of the parallel worlds. Like every new show, it must demonstrate that such a premise can go the distance of a multi-season run. I don't know if the compelling Issacs and the cast is strong enough to keep us invested in Michael's dream world and reality, whichever which one is.

*This review first published 3/26/2012


**Watch Awake Thursdays on NBC