TELEVISION REVIEW: Flash Forward – What Would You Do If You Could Catch a Glimpse of Your Future?

A man crawls from his overturned car, burning his hand on its muffler, which is now close by the window through which he has exited. The scene is chaos – the streets are filled with crashed vehicles; dazed and injured people are in shock. This is the opening of Flash Forward [ABC, Thursdays, 8/7C], one of two series the network hopes will be big for them [the other is ‘V’ which we’ll address in November].

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The man who has crawled out of his vehicle is FBI Special Agent Mark Benford [Joseph Fiennes], who, with his partner, Demetri Noh [John Cho], had been tailing a group of terrorists prior to blacking out. Before long, we find out that apparently everyone in the world blacked out at the exact same time – and regained consciousness exactly two minutes and seventeen seconds later.

As the premiere progresses, we begin to learn more: an agent in Benford’s office saw himself in London, in a conference with a Scotland Yard detective. A quick call and we know that she had the same dream, form her point of view, at the same time. Between this and news reports from all over the world, it looks like everyone saw their future at a specific moment, six months in the future – the exact same moment. Well, almost everyone. Some, like Noh, didn’t see anything. Does this mean they’re unconscious at that moment – or dead?

For some, the blackout comes as a blessing – like Dr. Bryce Varley, who is contemplating suicide until he regains consciousness; for others, like Benford’s wife, Olivia [Sonya Walger], not so much – she sees herself with a strange man, but one with whom she is seemingly intimate.

From that one brief blackout, comes pain and relief; life and death. And the question is raised: if you see tour future – even just for a moment – are you destined to wind up in that situation, or can you change it? Will your efforts to change things bring that fate upon you? And how are the various members of the cast connected – for there are definitely connections to be made here. Can changing one person’s future cause a cascade of changed futures for everyone?

Adapted from Robert J. Sawyer’s novel, the series gets of to a pretty hot start, what with its varied cast and the different things seen – or not – during the blackout. David S. Goyer directs the pilot, No More Good Days in such a way that we feel claustrophobic, even when the scene shifts to out of doors. Bits of weirdness underscore what would be normal events: automobile accidents; randy babysitters; even attempts to commit terrorist acts. To paraphrase New Jersey from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, “Why is there a kangaroo there?”

Because of his specific peek into the future, Benford is put to work trying to find out how and way the event happened? Why him? Because he saw himself working on it and trying to avoid a couple of assassins who were closing in on him in the office. Of course. Or, say what? With this show, either response is equally valid.

While the premise of the series might seem to limit its shelf life, there are good people involved – and they were smart enough to hire Mr. Sawyer as a consultant. Put that together with a premiere that is superbly put together, with fine performances and a judicious mix of action and intelligence, and the result is one of the best hours of television ever made – and the best pilot of the fall season… in a walk.

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