FlashForward Review: Clair-buoyant

September 28, 2009 by  
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FLASHFORWARD: Monday 28th September, Five, 9pm Alert Me

“This isn’t the next Lost,” is the line regularly spouted by Flashforward’s cast and crew amongst interviews in the run-up to its debut.

Well someone seems to have forgotten to tell not only the show’s hype-heavy PR company, but the scriptwriters.

While there appears to be enough mileage within the initial concept for it to grow legs and stride out on its own, on first glance this is little more than a redux of Lost’s debut episode with less viewer engagement and dodgier performances.

That isn’t to say that this is any way a write off though, and the first episode of this sci-fi drama ticks all the right visual and storytelling boxes to at least perk the interest and worm the ‘one more episode’ hook well into your tv-addled, coach-surfing subconscious.

As two-line pitches go, it’s a doozy.

Every single person on the planet loses consciousness at exactly the same moment for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. When they wake up they realise they experienced short glimpses into their own futures (exactly six months ahead), and with the devastating emotional and societal aftermath ringing fresh in their ears, a ragtag team of survivors are left to uncover why it happened, what caused it and whether their fates truly are pre-destined.

So, cliched and arguably unfair as it is, let’s get back to the Lost comparisons (you’re all wondering it anyway). The plot beats are surprisingly similar: it opens through the eyes of the hunky everyman rousing themselves from unconsciousness to a scene of cataclysmic disaster, there are creepily foreboding kiddies (“I had a bad dream. In it there no more good days,” dribbles Joseph Fienne’s child), head-spinning explosions aplenty, thoughtful explorations of fate and the human condition; hell, there’s even a random animal encounter (kangaroos in LA aren’t that more random than finding polar bears on tropical islands).

Yet while Lost occurs within a self-contained vacuum on Twilight Zone Island, Flashforward is set very much in the practicality of the real world. The lead up to and immediate aftereffects of the blackout are suitably realistic and offer some worthily eye-popping visuals of exploding helicopters, cities billowing with smoke and random occurrences.

Sadly, that realism doesn’t extend far enough to truly captivate when it’s expressed by graduates from the Acting School Of Wooden Knocks.

Joseph Fiennes just about salvages his performance as lead everyman Mark Bedford, although someone should probably tell him that repeatedly shaking his head and frowning to convey ‘drama’ does not a convincing character make. Lost-alumni Sonya Walgar meanwhile gives as good as the script gets with her emotional turn of a woman condemned to the realisation that her marriage is ill-fated, and Harold John Cho is equally as intriguing as the only man coping with the fact that he may not even have a future as the only one who didn’t get his own flashforward.

While it lacks the immediacy of Lost or the initial sense of engrossment, it succeeds in the small mysteries and inevitable cliffhanger. How will Cho’s character cope with the finality of his own fate? Who, if anyone, was behind the blackout? And more importantly, will we ever be able to stop viewing Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as ‘that Family Guy creator’ and actually take him seriously as an ‘act-or’?

Beautifully shot and inherently interesting, we have the sneaking suspicion that should we experience a Flashforward of our own, we might just still be tuning in six months on.

Matt Risley

For more cult classics, check out our review of the final season 1 ‘unseen’ episode in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, or head on over to our review of sci-fi classic in the making Pandorum…..