FlashForward Gasps Its Final Breaths

2 Apr

Before the start of the season, I was convinced FlashForward was going to be year’s best new series. It had an intriguing premise- catastrophic event causes everyone in world to black out for two minutes and seventeen seconds; those that aren’t killed see a moment from the future six months later. It had some cool actors including Joseph Fiennes and John Cho, as well as two LOST alums- Dominic Monaghan (Charlie) and Sonya Walger (Penny). ABC was billing it as the next LOST and all signs were pointing to success. The pilot drew in good ratings and I was pleasantly surprised by its quality. As pilots go it was pretty excellent- an action-packed hour that had lots of great disaster movie moments while still doing a good job of introducing us to all the characters. Almost immediately afterwards the series’ quality began to decline, and so too did its viewership.

As the numbers plummeted ABC grew nervous and decided the shelve the show during the winter so it wouldn’t have to compete with the Olympics. It’s been back since March 18th and has only continued to decline, although the story does seem to be picking up a little. I fear that it won’t have a chance to find its natural rhythm; reports are that several cast members have joined other pilots and all signs are pointing to cancellation. Which is too bad really, because I’d venture to guess that ABC will pull the plug just as the show finally becomes good. But I can’t blame them for wanting to get rid of it. Unlike cult shows like Joss Whedon’s Firefly or Dollhouse, FlashForward isn’t a quality show that’s just too weird to build up a big enough viewer base, it’s a mediocre show that’s turning off watchers due to its suffocating mediocrity. If the show were better, it’s very likely it’s ratings would be too.

Its biggest problem is that is has too many characters. Perhaps taking a note from their template, LOST, FlashForward’s showrunners (of which there have already been a dozen) decided their show needed about a bazillion different characters, including some that seem to have no real connection whatsoever to the greater, overarching plot. FF actually has around the same number of series regulars as LOST, but there could very well be twice that number the way they are handled. LOST never felt crowded in that first season because a) excluding Shannon they were all superb characters and b) excluding Shannon their stories all tied into the greater mythos. Michael and Walt may not have been as important as Jack and Locke, but Walt’s psychic powers kept him linked to the greater plot of the Island, as well as grabbed the audience’s attention. On FF, we generally have our A story following characters who actually matter- Fiennes’ Mark Benford, Cho’s Demetri (btw, what kind of Korean dude is named Demetri?!), while the B & C stories usually don’t involve the blackout and follow characters like Olivia, Bryce, or that annoying babysitter who’s name I can never remember. But because the stakes are so high on FlashForward, watching anyone who’s not involved in the FBI investigation only helps to frustrate the viewer. Only Aaron’s subplot involving the sillily-named private security firm Jericho manages to keep me involved, and that’s because I’m highly certain Jericho is involved with the global blackout conspiracy.

Bryce and the babysitter are without a doubt the worst characters on the show. Last night the two had a scene that involved the babysitter wanting to become a nurse and I literally almost fell asleep it was so unengaging. Those two have about as much chemistry and charisma as a pair of sea slugs, and neither’s story has anything to do with the blackout. There just there to add a “human” element to the story, one that is totally unwarranted. Bryce is so earnest I want to strangle him and his quest to find a Japanese girl he met in his flashforward is one of the more idiotic things someone has done due to their prescient vision. I hate them, they bring down a decent show and make it crappy. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re singlehandedly causing the show to get cancelled. But they do illustrate my point: it’s not that FF has too many characters, it’s that some of them just aren’t good enough to deserve any screentime. Bryce and the babysitter would have worked just fine as supporting characters, or characters we only see in the pilot. Instead, the creators decided to drag their miserable plotlines out until the end of time.

If only you had pulled the trigger you stupid douchebag.

At least we’re starting to learn more about what caused the blackout, and the Simon-centric ep was the series best so far, thanks in large part to the stellar acting of Dominic Monaghan. The shadowy organization responsible for the catastrophe is appropriately creepy, and allows for cameos from character actors like Ricky Jay (who’s also a magician) and Michael Massee. And thankfully characters are finally starting to act like they actually saw their futures. Olivia suggests to Mark that they flee Los Angeles and set up somewhere else like Denver, since both their flashforwards take place in LA and Mark is poised to die on that fateful day. Finally, someone using their flashforwards logically, instead of acting like it never happened in the first place. Weird/idiotic character moments do persist, however: last night our heroes were captured by a Somali warlord who executed four of their people while trying to get information. Once Janis figured out said warlord is supposed to unite Somalia under peace in the near future, all prior wrongs were forgiven and everyone acted as if four redshirts hadn’t just bit the dust. It really bothers me when a show acts like the background characters aren’t real people; just because they weren’t that important doesn’t mean Janis & co. wouldn’t feel bad/angry about their deaths. Then, when the group discovers the bodies of the warlord’s village, executed after having the blackout tested on them in 1991, the warlord freaks and tries to kill Simon, because Simon is partially responsible for the catastrophe. But the warlord believed his village was dead before, so why he didn’t try to kill Simon the moment he laid eyes on him is beyond me. It’s these sort of inconsistencies that really bring the show down.

However, the threat of another blackout adds some nice, foreboding tension and I bet said blackout will happen on the same day everyone saw in their flashforwards. The show is moving towards a compelling final act, but I fear it is too little, too late. Meandering and irrelevant subplots bogged the show down in its first act, but the worst mistake was creating characters that are supposed to be the sharpest tools in the shed, only to see them make stupid mistake after stupid mistake, episode after episode. I’ve always said the most important part of a good TV series is good characters, but never before has that idea been more apparent then when watching FlashForward.

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