Tonight Five finally unveiled what must be the biggest new American show this season, ABC’s FlashForward. If you haven’t noticed the endless publicity from Five (or the mentions on The Wright Stuff, Five News, The Gadget Show etc.), it’s based on a novel by Robert J. Sawyer, about everybody in the world blacking out for two minutes, seeing events from their lives six months in the future, and the consequences of this global event.
For many months, the biggest cliché circulating about this series was that it was touted as “the new Lost”. As a huge Lost geek, I was both excited and skeptical about this claim, unsure if it could really be that good.
After the jump, my thoughts on the first episode – obviously if you haven’t seen it yet, there be spoilers ahead…
What happens when everyone on the planet blacks out? Some people just fall down where they’re standing, they’re the lucky ones. The people in cars crash. And the ones in planes fall out of the sky. This, of course, leads to a terrific opening few minutes as we see the aftermath of this disaster at first in a street, then see that it’s all over Los Angeles, before hearing reports that it’s happening in different parts of America and then finally seeing on TV screens that it’s happened all over the world.
We then move on to what looks to be the heart of the series, the idea that everyone had a vision of the same time and date six months in the future. While this is a very interesting concept, at this point I was wanting to see a lot more of what was happening around the world. Yes, I suppose I wanted more explosions, more characters having to get out of dangerous situations, but perhaps I was expecting too much from a TV budget. There’s another 21 episodes to explore and investigate the flashes people had, so surely there was a bit more time to spend on the consequences of everyone blacking out. Everybody seemed to accept it and moved on quite quickly.
But like I say, the idea of piecing together everybody’s visions of the future is a very interesting one, and the writers have already started to play around with some of the things people saw – the single woman finding herself to be pregnant, the grieving father seeing his daughter turn out to be alive, and chillingly one character saying they didn’t see anything at all. I think it’s going to take a few more episodes to see just where they’re going to go with this, what the structure of each week’s episode will be and how they’ll keep the story moving from week to week, but I guess that’s all part of the fun.
So, was it like Lost? Well, sort of, but not quite. It certainly had a very different feel, something inherent in the very different settings for the two shows. Lost’s six-season arc took a very long time to unravel (it was 9 episodes before we even heard of The Others), while at first glance it looks as if we get the general idea of where FlashForward is heading already. And while Lost’s explosive big-budget pilot episode was an absolute masterpiece with brilliance in every single scene, the first episode of FlashForward started very well but started to really slow in parts of the second half.
However, the influence is clear. Just as the Lost viewer is now used to avidly analysing each episode to pick up every clue to the Island’s mysteries, FlashForward shows signs of being every bit as much as of a jigsaw puzzle. Throughout the episode there were mentions in the background of a company called Red Panda, and throughout Mark Benford’s flash we saw various other hints, such as “Blue Hand” and a connection with Baltimore (perhaps they should go to Baltimore and get Lester Fremon on the case, he’ll solve it in minutes!). In other words, it looks like this is a show it might be easy to get obsessed about!
There were also more tangible links with Lost. Sonya “Penny Widmore” Walger plays Olivia Benford, one of the central characters. It was a bit strange to hear her as an American, that posh accent in Lost is her normal voice! Future episodes will see the introduction of Dominic Monaghan, known for playing rock star Charlie Pace. And those of you looking out for clues in the background would have noticed the billboard advertising Oceanic Airlines.
Speaking of things to look out for, Family Guy star and creator Seth MacFarlane popped up in an early scene in the FBI headquarters. He was using his real voice, and because he also uses his real voice for Brian the dog in the cartoon series, it made for a slightly surreal moment.
Like all the best shows, it ended with a really good cliffhanger. Security tapes showed scenes from various locations around the world, with people falling to the floor in unison. And then in the middle of a Detroit baseball ground, suddenly, with a real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck chill, a single dark figure walking alone, while everyone around was unconscious. That one creepy scene eased my earlier doubts and made me feel a lot better about where this show is going. The one thing I can see of the future is that I’ll definitely be back for more next week.