a reference to Twitter

TV It’s a shame that after getting a reference to Twitter so correct early in tonight's uk episode of Flash Forward (the second), the writers blew their terminology mojo at the end by suggesting a posting to the Mosaic website is a ‘blog’. If it is indeed a blog, I’d hate to think what the RSS feed looks like with that many posts flying through in such a small time frame. Like Post Secret on ritalin. The episode did generally fall into the trap of generalising the internet and technology on the assumption that the great unwashed wouldn’t be able to cope with something that looked too technical, even though its core audience is the kind of group who would know exactly what a mouse would look like.

Hello. Don’t expect this to be a weekly post match meeting for Flash Forward. It’s rare that I’ll watch every episode of a television series “live” and the show hasn’t yet become must see television. But second episodes of any high concept series is always interesting because it sets the stall for whatever the formula will be for the rest of the series. Flash Forward looks like it’s going to fall into a similar pattern to the late lamented Odyssey 5, whose protagonists were also wrestling with their knowledge of the future, by having a “clue” of the week to be dealt with surrounded by the soapier elements caused by the predicament.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some series fail because they try desperately not to be formulaic leading to tone and character confusion, but on the other hand, keep too rigidly to a structure and your audience can become bored. To repeat what I said last week, Flash Forward will probably end up being a deeply mechanical programme masking a very wild premise and the devil will be in trying to make it interesting enough that the less trad audience won’t simply dismiss it as rubbish. In other more judgemental words, if this was about the supernatural, it’s trying to hook the kinds of people who liked Charmed and the rest of us who liked Buffy.

One of the elements is an odd skein of quirky humour. This is the second episode and already a vital clue is presented through a flash whose witness which looked she'd walked in from an episode of Pushing Daisies. The agents are merrily taking the piss out of their boss who in a nicely played scene gives all the appearance of haemorrhoidal problems, hours spent on the toilet, wishing, hoping and preying. Unlike the oh so serious 24, these agents take the piss out of one another; Torchwood did this all the time and like Torchwood it could become a problem when the show then has to do something properly dramatic.

The performances and direction continue to be good though the editing and pacing of the episode seemed a little off (though that could partly be the fault of Five and their laissez faire attitude to ad breaks). The episode just didn’t seem to know when to end. The perfect cut off point would have been the revelation about John Cho, but then there was yet another scene with yet another revelation. The writers need to sparing with their clues and secrets otherwise the audience will begin to spot when they’re coming up, particularly if all of the episodes have the same duration. If this keeps happening at about minute fifty-five (or thirty-five on dvd) it could get very tired.

Other random notes:

-- I still think John Cho’s character could be lying. At one point in this episode he says he hasn’t talked to his fiancé about his lack of a flash forward – and he didn’t mention what his fiance’s flash might be and whether he was in it. That’s either odd writing or he’s deliberately keeping something back. Similarly when the lady rings him having magically spotted his “blog” amongst nearly a million and gives him his incept date, the reaction could mean “Oh shit, hold on, I thought I was alive…” (and yes, I know Cho has contradicted this theory in interviews, but he’s hardly going to throw about spoilers, is he?)

-- Jack Davenport’s good isn’t he? The scene in which his character breaks the news of his wife’s death to his autistic son could have been a saccharine mess but Davenport’s playing gave it a sheen of dignity. Note too that this was the first scene told from his point of view in which we weren’t seeing him through another character’s eyes, confirming that he’s a proper regular, rather than a guest star. Unless the writers are playing games with the language of television but I don’t think so.

-- In an interview in this month’s SFX magazine, creator David S Goyer says that the characters will catch up with their flash forward at the close of this season AND that for the scenario to play out he needs at least three seasons and that he has it all planned out.* In this episode there’s a hint that the agents believe it’s possible that the phenomena could be repeated which suggests (as I did last week) that indeed at the close of the series or the beginning of the next there will be another flash, that it is cyclical, whoever’s causing it (aliens? angels? The Dhama Collective?)

-- Where was the babysitter? She seemed very important in the pilot, but here she was referred to without a name. One of those occasions when a character doesn’t make it past the first episode?

-- The flashbacks are irritating. On the assumption that people have memory of a goldfish, the show includes moments from previous scenes (including flash forwards) to explain the context of a given conversation and sometimes from just minutes before. If it's not to careful it could become the first series in which every episode becomes a clip show. It reminds me of the second episode of Clerks: The Animated Series that parodied such things by flashing back to the first episode and then incidents far more random and interesting. Sound familiar?

(real Gwyneth Paltrow by the way. From when she was still going with Ben Affleck).

* Planning ahead is always dangerous. J Michael Strazinski went into Babylon 5 with a five year story mapped out then had to tell it in four years when it looked like the show was going to be cancelled. Then the ratings picked up in that forth year and he had to cast about for material for the fifth year which understandably ended up being a bit inferior since he'd already said what he wanted to say, just a bit quicker. Odyssey 5 similarly had such plans but was canned after about ten or so episodes.

1 comment:

  1. I like your analysis of FlashForward. Great show, and I hope they give Jack Davenport more to do because his work is just wonderful.