Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hot and Cold FlashForwards

I've watched the first six episodes of FlashForward, the TV series "inspired" by the Robert J. Sawyer novel, and so far: meh. Not sure if I'm going to keep watching. The premise is interesting, and I like some of the characters, but the story being told isn't really to my taste.

Speaking of characters, is anyone else amused by the fact that several of the people central to the plot are being played by non-Americans? To wit:
  • Joseph "Ralph's brother" Fiennes as alcoholic FBI agent Mark Benford;
  • Sonya "I was Penny on LOST" Walger as Benford's long-suffering wife, Olivia;
  • Brian "bit player" O'Byrne as Benford's Jedi Master AA sponsor;
  • Jack "that dude from Coupling" Davenport as a mysterious stranger; and
  • Dominic "I was Charlie on LOST" Monaghan as another mysterious stranger.
Also note that the mysterious and possibly eeevil strangers are the only ones speaking with their natural accents. Them foreigners is trubble, I tell ya!

My two favorite characters are FBI agents Demetri Noh and Janis Hawk, played by John "Harold from Harold and Kumar" Cho and Christine "you probably don't remember me from that one episode of House" Woods, respectively. I think Demetri actually has the most interesting storyline, insofar as it deals directly with The Big Question underlying the premise of the show: to wit, fate vs. free will. And I loved Janis' big boxy eyeglasses from the start; last week's hot-lesbian reveal was just icing on the cake. So to speak. Um, let's stop this metaphor before it goes off the tracks.

As for story, I think I know where it's going, and I'm thinking I'll get more enjoyment out of reading the TWOP recaps. When you're dealing with a global phenomenon, the choice of which story you tell says a lot about what you want to say. Choosing to focus on the law enforcement team investigating the cause of the flashforward instead of the team of scientists who were reponsible for it (as the original novel did) fundamentally changes the nature of the story, even more than the rejiggering of the premise itself: in the novel, the flashforward gave people visions of their lives 21 years in the future; in the TV series, the jump is only six months.

In typical Robert J. Sawyer fashion, the novel deals with a lot of science, and there's some interesting discussion of quantum mechanics and philosophy. The most amusing parts of the novel deal with Sawyer's predictions for 2009, as written in 1999; in the novel, eyeglasses are rare because laser keratotomy has been perfected, but everyone still uses VCRs and videotape. Also, it's no longer fashionable to wear blue jeans; denim dyed other colors is in. (Like Cory Doctorow says: "Science fiction writers don’t predict the future (except accidentally).")

The TV series, so far, seems to enjoy being different things at different times; it's veered from family drama to police procedural to techno-thriller to medical mystery to West Wing knock-off. Maybe that was part of the plan from the start, but the FBI investigation is the only continuous thread, and that hasn't really been ringing my bell.

Maybe V will be better, but I'm not holding my breath.


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