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How FlashForward Got Its Act Together and Put on a Good Show

by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 29th 2010 11:07AM
'FlashForward' Cast
Fans of 'V' should be worrying right about now. With all the promotion ABC has put behind their re-toolings of both 'FlashForward' and 'V,' it's not very encouraging that 'FlashForward returned to even lower numbers than when it left, before quickly slipping even lower to its worst ratings yet.

The real question is why. Did no one have faith that ABC could turn the show around and get it back on track? When did we become so cynical? Plenty of television series have gone through rough starting periods before turning into great shows. I'm not saying 'FlashForward' is suddenly the greatest show on television, but it's vastly improved over its slow and meandering first half.

The two-hour mid-season premiere was epic and fantastic, so I wanted to wait until after the second episode to see how the new 'FlashForward' was going to look. While it was scaled back to the more personal stories again, I again felt that sense of foreboding and tense anticipation that a premise like this should have.

Answers Given
Sonya Walger & Joseph Fiennes, 'FlashForward''FlashForward' isn't 'Lost,' and that means we need to get some answers. Unanswered questions is a trademark of 'Lost,' but 'FlashForward' shouldn't be trying to be that. By clarifying Mark's half-forgotten flashback, we got to move events dramatically forward between him and Lloyd.

We still don't know why Lloyd was with Mark's wife Olivia in their house, but now we know that Lloyd's phone conversation was with Mark. While filling in some key holes, they still managed to bring up some new questions. We're still working toward D. Gibbons, and we got the line, "There's going to be another blackout."

In a surprising turn, considering it is one of the key mysteries of the series, we also learned who Suspect Zero is. Unfortunately, he's no more the mastermind of the blackout than all the unconscious people were. Instead, it was Simon being set up and used as a diversion by D. Gibbons.

Simon Says
When Dominic Monaghan first joined the cast as Simon, we were promised that he would be one of the most intriguing characters on the show, and he is. Unfortunately, he was woefully underused in the first half. By revealing more about his past and bizarre connection to the blackout, he became an even more integral and mysterious character than ever before.

Simon's capable of murder, and who knows what else, but he has no interest in the level of evil that whoever is behind the blackouts is looking to create. We learned that they have leverage on him, in the form of his sister, and that makes him all the more dangerous.

The Jericho Connection
One of the problems with the show was that it was unclear if and how all of the main characters' stories were connected. In a mystery ensemble serialized show like this, viewers can't help but look for connections, and if Aaron's story with his daughter, for example, has nothing to do with Mark's investigation then why do we care?

Genevieve Cortese & Brian F. O'Byrne, 'FlashForward'We still don't know for sure if it connects, but the military contracting company Jericho was suddenly established as a major player on the field of battle in 'Blowback,' while we finally got a chance to see what makes Aaron so dangerous a man to cross. For all the power Jericho provides, is it enough to withstand one-man army of rage? And what happens when Aaron inevitably pulls Mark into his crusade, and we learn of those connections between Jericho and the blackout.

More importantly, Jericho and "Uncle Teddy" gave us a villainous presence; a tangible foe for our heroes to be facing off against.

Show Not Tell
'Revelation Zero' took us back to the blackout itself; something that was largely glossed over in the first ten episodes. Here was this massive life-changing event, and we got to see only a few short scenes of it and then back to normal life.

'FlashForward'By taking us back to that moment from time to time, to see the destruction, and how it impacted so many lives, 'FlashForward' keeps reminding us of the epic scale of that global event, while reminding us of the inherent dangers if Mark's claim that another one is forthcoming pans out.

Lives Touched
The story of the window washer, that wove through the two-hour series return, added yet another layer to the tapestry of 'FlashForward.' We've already seen that Bryce gave up thoughts of suicide because of what he saw in his future, but here was an even more dramatic transformation: from window washer to preacher.

These visions had a huge impact on a lot of people, certainly more than what we've seen so far. Having an entire world population filled with people who had visions gives 'FlashForward' infinite opportunities to explore what some of those other visions were, and how it's changed lives.

The event was so unprecedented, it would not so quickly fade into the backgrounds of everyone's lives. Everyone would be either wanting to share what they saw, or find out what other people saw. It's human nature.

Jack Davenport, 'FlashForward'It was such a little thing, Mark's line from his flashforward that he wished Lloyd had been behind that 8-ball when he came crashing through. And it made absolutely no sense until that 8-ball on the building Mark suspected Lloyd was being held captive in. Those are the kinds of goosebump moments for the characters that no other show can give us. Everyone on Earth is a prophet in their own lives, and more moments showing those kinds of moments emphasizes the power of this premise.

Too Late?
'FlashForward' premiered huge because it had an incredibly compelling premise. Unfortunately, it got bogged down in distractions and trying to make Mark the most unlikable lead character. The show returned vastly improved, and finally living up to its premise. But does it matter?

Are fans unable to forgive a bad start to a series anymore, or is that specific to serialized shows? It's the same thing we've seen with 'Heroes.' Even though more recent episodes have shown improvement over earlier missteps, it doesn't seem that it matters. One bad run of episodes and you might as well throw in the towel. Maybe networks shouldn't even bother to try retooling shows to resuscitate them, or tweak them into achieving their potential if audiences are inherently programmed to refuse to give them a second chance.

A great test of this will be the return of 'V' this week. If it comes back creatively stronger than ever, and yet no one bothers to give it another chance, then we'll have an idea of the nature of modern audiences. Disappoint me once ... and you're through! I've got plenty of other things I can be doing with my time.

[To give it another chance, you can always find clips and full episodes of 'FlashForward' on SlashControl.]

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You know my feeling is its "tit for tat." When a show is really good the networks don't give it a chance to gain an audience so why should we, the audience, give the network a chance to make a bad show better? And this situation is the networks own fault. Audiences are too afraid to invest their time in a show, especially if it isn't a typical procedural police/medical/law drama that wraps everything up neat and tidy in 44 minutes, because we know that as soon as we do the networks will yank it or put it on an ill timed hiatus.

Even with the "bad" episodes (I never did think the show was too slow) I think if ABC had just let the show air uninterrupted it would have a good solid audience by now. But no, they picked a bad spot in the storyline to have a break and the break itself broke the feeling of continuity for many viewers.

I'm to the point that if a show looks interesting I wait until the second season starts airing. I'm tired of getting emotionally invested in a show only to have it snatched away, delayed or cancelled without resolution. I'm tired of mailing peanuts, subway sandwiches, and Tabasco sauce to the networks. I wait and then I rent or buy the first season on DVD so that I can watch all the episodes, in correct order, without interruption and with the knowledge that since season two is already airing there will be a resolution (good, bad, or so-so) to season one's cliff-hanger! It sooooo much more enjoyable that way.

March 29 2010 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah putting on a show for a few episodes and then going on a 3-4 month hiatus has been shown time and time again to be a complete and instantaneous show-killer. Why do they always think this rule won't apply?

It's clear they're trying to make FlashForward into the new "Lost" (a show that has had it's own "flashforwards" in it). The problem is the mystery over people falling asleep and seeing their future for a little over 2 minutes is just not that intersting of a mystery, nowhere near as interesting or on the same scale as what we have with Lost. With Lost you have countless mysteries, and every time we find out something about one we get 100 more questions. With FlashForwards, you have one big mystery, the uninteresting threat of it happening again (do we really care?), and just random clues being found. A blue hand here, a menu here, a photo here... whatever.

Lost has its problem, and ABC has its problems with Lost going off the air in 10 more episodes. But FlashForwards is not the answer. Neither is V for that matter.

The one thing ABC and hopefully other networks will learn from the success of Lost is that viewers are capable of watching, following, and liking a complex show with lots of facts, subtle clues, mysteries, and characters to follow. When the board game "Monopoly" was proposed by its creator, all the various game companies rejected it as being too complex, figured nobody would be able to play it. That turned out to be completely true. I think Lost shows that the same thing applies to TV shows. Give us a smart show that requires smart people to understand it. If all we're given is asinine reality crap, then sure people will watch it. But if we're given the opportunity to watch something that requires the use of our brains, we will watch that too - in huge numbers. But make sure the characters are really hot and fuckable, just to be on the safe side.

March 29 2010 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The first problem is that it stopped for 3 months and then expects to come back a big hit. The second problem is that word has been going around about Flash Forward being canceled. I'm sure many thought it was canceled. So now, why would anyone want to watch a show that has been canceled? Of course, the few interested in the show know that it won't be canceled until the end of the season which should finalize the show, but will it?

March 29 2010 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The key difference between this and Lost is that even with the latter's penchant in not answering any questions, it was still a great show that focuses on characters. Sadly FlashForward seems more interested in its mythology than its characters.

It's a bit more difficult to judge V under the same circumstance. FF had 10 episodes to make us care about the characters. V only had four episodes. So if audiences don't come back to the latter, it would most likely be for different reasons (i.e. the scheduled long break was miscalculated).

March 29 2010 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Axel Harris

I gotta agree with the others. After that three month break, I simply didn't care what was going on any more. And, unfortunately it seems like a lot of people were of the same opinion as I am.

Maybe it was the rumors of the show getting the plug pulled before the hiatus even started that made me decide to not spend my time on it.

But, if it does get a second season, I'll be sure to catch up so I can be there for the premiere.

March 29 2010 at 12:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with Carlos about springing long breaks on viewers. When I first learned Flash Forward was taking such a long hiatus, I was upset and really wanted to continue the story. But by the time it came back, I had already forgotten most of the story line and didn't care about the characters anymore.

Also, the writing on this show is becoming very generic and cliche. Maybe it always was, but as the stories are playing out, it's becoming more obvious. And yeah, I think if you're writing a serialized show, you have a greater responsibility to keep it interesting. If you're telling me, I have this great story to tell over a period of time and I want you to pay attention, then you have to be able to tell that story in the allotted time and keep it interesting. Once you've driven people away, they're not going to jump back in later; if they were willing to stop watching it, you must have convinced them that learning the end of the story wasn't worth the journey.

March 29 2010 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really I don't think it's an issue of the show being any good or not. I really did enjoy the show at first.

I think this "new" trend of networks deciding they can split a season in half 3 months apart is just not sitting well with people. For one, in this day and age of DVRs there is no reason to come back and sit in for a huge New Premiere of show we were interested in 3 months ago. If we forget, the DVR will catch it.

I don't mind waiting as long as I need to between seasons, but if you start a story, just finish it. That's where they lost me.

March 29 2010 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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