I did something I haven’t done in quite a while, now that I come to think of it: Try out a new TV show. I really don’t have much time for the shows I don’t already watch, and I’ve actually cut out a lot of those this season (Fringe, House, The Walking Dead) what with college taking time and all.
But the premise for new NBC show Awake is just so damn good that I had to give it a go: Jason Isaacs (whose name alone might sell some people) plays a detective who gets into a brutal car crash with his wife and son. Now his life is split between two realities, his wife dead in one and his son in the other. He alternates every time he goes to bed, leaving us with one very obvious question: In which world is he awake, and which is the dream he escapes to?
Now that’s what I call a set-up. Pessimistically speaking, this show hasn’t really got a prayer on NBC, and even if it’s not immediately cancelled there’s an insane amount of potential for it to run off the rails and disappoint everyone. After all I don’t think a show with a definite central question has ever provided a satisfying answer, so we’re probably headed for a bad place.
But since we’re not there yet and the pilot was pretty strong (still missing that special something that cable offers), I’m going to make an attempt to stick with it for the time being.
A show with a foundation like this brings out something in the audience that I really enjoy: A desire to beat the writers, which I found myself indulging in for the entire pilot. If I get invested then I’m sure I’ll root for them to outsmart me, but for now I’m playing the “predict future storylines” game with the intention of ruining as much dramatic tension as possible. I can’t really help but do otherwise; with a conceit like this driving the series it’s the writers’ burden to stay a few steps ahead of an audience dedicated to besting them at every turn. They’re almost guaranteed to lose.
My contributions: We’ll soon have a serial killer preying on different victims in both realities, the obvious love interest will be an issue not only in the world with his son but when his wife is around as well, his psychiatrists will try communicating with each other, the links between realities will make it seem impossible that either one isn’t real, characters will die in one world and stick around in the other, if it goes long enough there will be a third reality where they both died (or lived), there will be a pivotal episode this season exploring the circumstances of the crash, there may be a suggestion that another character is experiencing both realities as well, possible endings for the show are that he’s the one who actually died and he has to realize this to move on, the wife and son are fine but he’s in a coma, both of them died and nothing’s real, both worlds are real and there’s some magical bullshit going on, etc.
So that’s a bit to start on. And that’s one of millions of people thinking what might happen. It’s okay if people are right as long as it’s done well, so keep it focused on the characters and not layering on twists and this could be the best of what network TV has to offer for quite a while.
Final couple things: I look forward to fans of the show soon choosing which world they prefer and rooting for its existence, and the best line of the episode from my already favorite character was easily “I’ve been a cop for twenty years and I’ve only seen hunches on TV.”