Four Reasons 'FlashForward' Was Canceled
by Jason Hughes, posted May 18th 2010 2:04AM
'FlashForward' was canceled because ABC wasn't satisfied with the ratings, obviously. But that's not the whole story. When a series premieres at 12.5 million viewers and plummets to seven million within the first ten episodes, there's something else going on. Now, it's ranking consistently below five million for its final few episodes.
The bottom line is that the creators failed to deliver on the promise of the premise. People were intrigued by the idea of 'FlashForward.' The pilot tested well and, by early buzz, it looked like ABC may have found their "replacement" for 'Lost.' But while 'Lost' got more and more complex and intense as it went along, 'FlashForward' quickly went off the rails.
The scripts were out for retooling even before the show premiered, and it was ultimately yanked from the schedule in December 2009 for a more dramatic overhaul. In the end, they never quite got it right. So what went so wrong?
1) Back to Normal
One of the major drawing factors of 'FlashForward' at the beginning was the mystique of two minutes and seventeen seconds during which every person on the planet blacked out. Within a matter of a few seconds, thousands were dead, the roadways were filled with the wreckage of cars, planes were down and fires were erupting everywhere. While the whole world saw the future, it also saw a level of mass destruction the likes of which we'd never seen before.
A few days later, everything was back to normal. The same thing inside our brains that makes us slow down to look at car accidents wanted to see the fallout of this global catastrophe. It was as if the producers had blown their entire budget on the pilot and couldn't afford to show any more of the fallout, but it's just not possible that everything was status quo that quickly.
2) Identity Crisis
In the beginning, 'FlashForward' was about how this global blackout affected the entire planet. Bryce was going to commit suicide, but didn't because he saw true love in his vision. Aaron saw himself in Afghanistan with his daughter, alive and well. Janis, single and not looking to start a family, saw herself pregnant and happy. Nicole was being drowned, or so it seemed, while Agent Demetri Noh saw nothing at all.
As Agent Mark Benford's "Mosaic" investigation picked up steam, though, it began to dominate the entire series. What was an ensemble drama spotlighting a variety of perspectives on a global phenomenon transformed into a high-stakes government conspiracy thriller, complete with secret White House connections, corrupt corporations and lots of running around and shooting at things.
The other characters weren't abandoned completely; they were just minimized to the point of near obsolescence. A science fiction premise exploring the concepts of free-will and predestination had become an action-adventure series. 'Lost' excelled because the writers knew to balance the human stories with their more outlandish concepts. 'FlashForward' virtually abandoned both, as if they'd decided to be the next '24' instead. But Mark Benford is no Jack Bauer.
3) Mark Benford Was a D**k
At the heart of the emotional story for the beginning of the season was Olivia's vision that her marriage to Mark Benford might be over by April 29. She saw herself in bed with another man, Lloyd Simcoe. The problem is that Mark was pretty quickly established as one of the most unlikable characters in the show. He was angry, belligerent, disrespectful and bullying to almost everyone around him for those first ten episodes. So we didn't care if she left him. In fact, we encouraged it.
Eventually, the writers toned him down quite a bit, and he became tolerable again. By then, though, Olivia was the one going crazy. Despite the vision she was fighting so hard to prevent, she did everything but throw herself into Lloyd's arms -- no wait. She did that, too. By then, though, we didn't care anymore.
4) See You in Three-and-a-Half Months
While a lengthy hiatus is a huge risk for any serialized show, it was even more so for 'FlashForward.' From the beginning, the show put itself on a timetable. April 29, 2010, was the day everyone saw in their visions. Not so coincidentally, April 29, 2010, also happened to be a Thursday in real life, which meant a new episode of 'FlashForward.' It didn't take a scientist to figure the show would utilize this synchronicity to their benefit.
That put viewers right into the heart of the story, and gave us a whole different take on real-time drama. When you have a show tied so cleverly and tightly to the real calendar, you can't pull it from the schedule for three-and-a-half months. By the time 'FlashForward' came back on the air March 18, 2010, we had no idea what day it was in their timeline. The fun of having the show progress on the same calendar we were on was gone.
Most significantly, April 29 wasn't April 29. The show was still in March when that episode rolled around. One of the cleverest narrative opportunities for any show wound up completely wasted.
'FlashForward' never did figure out exactly what kind of show it wanted to be. By the time they found a voice and direction that was working creatively, the writing was on the wall, and it wasn't good news. At least loyal viewers will get to April 29, 2010, in the series' timeline. Achieving the day of the visions will provide some resolution to long-unanswered questions.
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