FlashForward: No More Good Days (S01E01)

If – like me – you missed out on telly phenomenon like Lost and 24, you have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with ABC’s [[FlashForward (TV Series)|FlashForward]]. The series starts with a massive global event in which the entire population of the planet blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, during which time they experience visions of their lives 6 months in the future.

If the series had chosen to follow the lives of some agricultural types, the series would have been less interesting. Imagine it:

Farmer #1: I had a vision of myself in April. It was lambing season and we were dealing with a difficult birth…

Farmer #2: Ooo-arrr! I saw myself finally fixing the gate in the top field. Good weather for it.

Farmer #1: Aye. Wonder what it all means…?

Thankfully, the story revolves around FBI investigator Mark Benford. Benford is a recovering alcoholic, played with a look of semi-permanent constipation by [[Joseph Fiennes]]. It’s his job to work out what the visions mean while trying to decode his own visions – he sees himself drinking at work while viewing a wall of evidence and clues in his office. People are trying to kill him, he suspects because he’s closing in on the reason behind the visions.

Chaos and carnage

The introductory episode, No More Good Days, shows the day of the visions. The producers went to town with an amazing display of disaster. Imagine everybody suddenly freezing in the middle of the working day – pilots, drivers, even surfers at the local beach drown as their bodies fail for over two minutes. There’s carnage on the roads as drivers simultaneously fall asleep at the wheel. Clearly a the city zoo has been breached as a kangaroo bonces down the street.

These opening scenes fail in one important regard – they don’t go far enough towards showing the global nature of the disaster. We could have done with more shots of major captial cities decimated by their unconscious citizens.

To the credit of the team behind FlashForward, the sight of those surfers face down in the ocean was possibly more sinister than any of the 9/11 style aircraft/building crashes.

The pilot episode borrowed perhaps the winning ingredient from the first series of [[Heroes (TV Series)|Heroes]] – giving a glimpse of future events and then leaving the cast to move toward those some kind of conclusion to those events.

Benford must also come to deal with the fact that his wife will become involved with another man, he will fall off the wagon at some point, all the while trying to get to the bottom of this mystery – why did everybody on Earth black out? Is there some reason for the vision?

Meanwhile, their circle of friends, family and colleagues have their own dilemmas – one has no vision at all, leading him to believe he’s dead in the future; a colleague of Benford’s is pregnant in the future, but has no idea how since she’s single. There’s some good news – a suicidal colleague of Mrs Benford sees himself happy in the future and decides not to shoot himself in the head. It’s heartwarming stuff.

Benford’s daughter gets to utter the creepy Sixth Sense-style line – “I dreamed there were no more good days” Except that by now, kiddie premonitions are completely passe.

Quick gripes

You know that scene where the man jumps out of a car and bursts into flames? Well, I hate to be pedantic, but the interior of the car is not on fire – only the bonnet of the car is burning. The stunt actor is clearly doused in so much of that combustible stuff, you can practically see the liquid gleaming in the sunlight.

And while we’re at it – let’s have a close up of that guy moving around the stadium while the rest of the world’s asleep. But hold on, the rest of the image pixelates as the FBI lady zooms in – all except for the mysterious be-trenchcoated figure whose lines are as pure and fluid as if he’d been superimposed on a bad photograph. Puh-lease. Memo to FX department: a little more attention to detail please.

Conslusions

For a first episode, there was plenty for get started with. Plenty of parallel plots kickstarted and characters to get to know. The future aspect of the series gives us lots to speculate on as viewers: how does Benford start drinking again? Before or after his wife leaves him? Who is the mysterious figure who refuses to pixelate, even at ridiculous levels of digital zoom? Is the other AA member’s daughter actually still alive? If so, was it worth him becoming alcolholic about it?

I pointed out some niggles with the series above because FlashForward isn’t quite as slick as it needs to be. The premise is brilliant and thought provoking, and I have high hopes for the series. I wouldn’t want to get to the end as with this review on Watch With Mothers which says:

My own personal flashforward involves me sitting on my sofa, looking ruddy annoyed as the credits to the final episode of series one roll. Is this to be my destiny?

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