Feb 182012

It’s interesting that NBC would first release the pilot for their quasi genre series Awake online in advance of the airdate. And as genre, this is part of the latest trend of men having dead relatives haunt their lives (see A Gifted Man to get the idea.) Now, I wasn’t sure about this series, as the idea smacked of self indulgence similar to the aforementioned similarly themed series. To recap the plot. Police Detective (because just about everything drama related these days has to be at least part police procedural) Michael Britten (played by British actor Jason Isaacs) has lost his wife in a car crash in one reality but goes to sleep and wakes up in a different reality where his son survived. We are treated by dueling psychologists and confused partners in both worlds. Does it work, though?

*spoilers warning*

The show opens with a slowmo scene of the Britten family car crash. And then we move into a grief session with red reality (where his wife is alive) psychologist played by BD Wong (Law and Order:SVU). It’s cut off for one of the ep’s two 5 minute mysteries. Yeah, they are about that. Basically we see the crime scene, Detective Britten spots a couple of details and the suspect is identified and ultimately shot to death by our hero’s partner. That’s the police part of the show.

Cherry Jones (24) plays the psychologist in the green reality (where his son is alive) and she argues with BD’s assumptions that hers is the dream reality. Why red and green? Mike wears different colored live strong rubber bands in each reality. This is important (at least in the show). At one point he wakes up and freaks out when he finds he isn’t wearing a band and cuts his hand to try to prove he is actually awake. Beyond the theme of dealing with grief, the script doesn’t concern itself seriously with anything else. When faced with people questioning his ‘fantasies’ Mike makes no effort to investigate, or even, say be clear if he is reliving the same day, or say living every other day in each reality. He doesn’t seem to have even asked his wife or son what happened on the night of the crash (he apparently has no memory of it.) I assume at this point that the procedural part of the show is to offer some cheap and familiar thrills. Because it offers nothing else.

And at the end of the hour we are treated to Mike’s mission statement (which he relates to the somewhat belligerent Wong)

“The thing is Doctor, yes, I still see my wife and my son, and I’ve also seen both of them lowered into the ground. And when you see a loved one buried you have one thought over and over again and that is you would do anything anything to get them back. So if your telling me that the price of seeing them, feeling them, of having them in my life *is my sanity*, it’s a price I will happily pay.”

Wow, I’m not sure if this beats the wish fulfillment fantasy of Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch, but it does come close. There are also echoes of the kind of escapism that was explored in the UK version of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes series and the Robert Lepage 2000 Sci-fi movie Possible Worlds. We’ll see which way this one goes (possibly into a full psychotic break, who knows.)

On the whole the production values are fine, the acting is fine. I think the sci-fi series Charlie Jade did a much better job of using color todelineatemultiple realities much better. I really didn’t see much of difference here. I’m not sure what kind of legs this show will have unless it gets a lot more interesting and a lot less self indulgent/self-absorbed. We’ll see in March. I’m guessing no, but I’ve been wrong before.

Rating: 3 out of 5

  One Response to “Awake TV Pilot 1.01 Review “I have no desire to *ever* make progress.””

  1. Im sorry to see you didnt care for Awake that much. I actually liked it quite a bit, and it worries me that it wont capture large enough of an audience and get cancelled. Not that I helped its ratings either though. I forgot to set my DVR and would have missed it entirely if not for the free streaming site set-up by my employer, DISH, called dishonline(dot)com. I actually watched it on there twice to make sure Id caught all the subtle intricacies. If you decide to give that first episode a second try you can check it out there as well. A lot of the shows (Awake included) is available to DISH customers and non-customers alike, no log-in or anything required.

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