I have rarely been so taken by a new television series as I am by FlashForward, the science fiction-style series which appears on Australia’s Channel 7 each Monday at 8.30pm. Click here to view the episodes in Australia; click here to view the episodes if you are in the USA. The USA appears to be running about five or six days ahead of Australia – so last Thursday’s episode in the USA (November 12) will appear in Australia on Monday November 16.
The series appears to unfold in “real time” – that is, what we are watching each week supposedly is taking place during that time (Hallowe’en on that holiday, etc), all leading up to the April 2010 climax – the two-plus minutes of everyone’s future which everyone viewed in the first episode.
The series is wonderfully written, setting up not only some great science fiction questions, but also some important ones about the nature of time: do we have free will? (the series appears to be saying “maybe yes”, but the word is not yet in) is the future ordained? (the BIG question, to be sure) are all of those people who did not have “flash forwards” really going to die before April 2010? (we are hoping not, as our Korean-American FBI agent – played by John Cho – will be among them).
The premise, if you have missed this interesting event to date, is that everyone in the whole world lost consciousness at the same moments (causing all sorts of mayhem – planes and cars crashing, millions dead, etc) and glimpsed a vision of their future – all simultaneously. This in turn drives many people almost crazy, including one of our heroes, FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), who is rather unhappily married and whose wife Olivia has seen a guy in her living room who she calls “darling” (the same guy who is the father of a young autistic boy she is treating). Fiennes, disappointingly, is not great in this role, and his marital strains are one of the least effective parts of the story (he and his wife’s flash forwards indicate rough times ahead).
In a world where some 20+ million people have died in one moment, I think there would probably be more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) going on, but my only real complaint about the writing is about their time zones. These writers – who get so many things absolutely right – have got one thing totally wrong: The mass consciousness loss took place about 10.00pm in Los Angeles, which would make it about 1.00am in Washington, DC – great, that one is right (showing the President being woken up in the middle of the night), but they got two wrong: there is a sideline story (episode 2?) in which they discuss and show a baseball stadium in what I am sure they said was Detroit, Michigan where there is one mysterious figure (and it’s a pretty creepy moment, which they show a number of times) moving through the huddled unconscious people – except it’s daytime. Duh (as they say). 10.00pm in LA makes it 1.00am in Detroit – thus no baseball game, no daylight. Oh boy. And then there is a long discussion about how very few Chinese died during the “flash forward” (and maybe they were therefore responsible), but then one character says “but it was the middle of the night there”. Well, no, it was not: 10.00pm in Los Angeles makes it 2.00pm (not am!) in Beijing – anything but the middle of the night.
Despite these faults (wish they had not made the mistakes), one hell of a great series.
(Postscript: a good academic “fan” discussion by Julia Lesage, University of Oregon, and entitled “FlashForward: Pacing and Script” has just been published on “FlowTV”, a media analysis site which comes from the University of Texas at Austin.)