As I begin this piece, I learn that ABC has just renewed V. Now, it's not a done deal, but it seems incredibly likely that this spells the end of FlashForward. (Sniff.) Much as I dislike this show, I was hoping it would win the "Well, we have to renew SOMEthing" ABC sweepstakes, simply because it's capable of moments of loony brilliance. It's constantly swinging for the fences, whereas V is a cop show with aliens (and not a very well-done cop show at that). FlashForward strikes out just about every time, but when it connects, it hits fly balls to deep left that are then fielded easily and tossed back in to the shortstop. I don't think FlashForward has ever nailed anything, but it's come close enough a few times (the first few moments of the pilot, the opening and closing acts of "Believe," assorted storylines and moments in this back half of the season), and that's why I've continued to follow the show, even as everyone around me said, "You're still watching that?"
I mean, look, both shows should be canceled. They both have terrible ratings, and both are bad creatively. But there was a part of me that wanted to see if having a summer off could lead FlashForward to find its footing, to come up with more episodes that match some of the near-genius of those moments. I like the show's master plot, and I think some of the characters are potentially salvageable. There's a show inside of here, and I don't know that I would have said that after the series' low points in its early days. The only conclusion I can draw from all of this is that after the next two weeks, when we never see the show again, I look forward to the amazing remake of the series, which uses much the same plot but utterly revamps the characters, in 2029.
Now comes the part where I tell you that tonight's episode made me even more sad the show wouldn't be coming back. Except it didn't. At all. It was another episode that made me question why I've stuck with this show through everything, why I didn't just give it up alongside the rest of America. I feel like the entirety of the run of the show can be summed up in a scene where the FBI yahoos who are most of our main characters are standing around a room, and new footage of Suspect Zero comes on a cable news station, and it's from a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANGLE than the footage we've been seeing all season. It's so obvious too! That footage is filmed from outside, looking across the stadium as Suspect Zero disappears down a tunnel between columns of seats. The new footage is filmed from inside the tunnel, looking at Suspect Zero from head-on, close enough that the news networks can identify him.
Which conclusion do our characters jump to? Let's assume that the characters are, I dunno, normal people who have good vision or a good vision plan that has allowed them to see an optometrist who gave them the proper prescription strength lenses. We might expect these characters to say, "Who is this person who is leaking new angles of the Suspect Zero footage to the media? Perhaps they are in on the conspiracy!" But, no. FBI Director Goofy Black Sidekick from a 1980s Action Film (Minus the Ability to Make Sound Effects) immediately begins wondering just who in the Bureau leaked the footage. He is soon interrupted by AGENT MARK BENFORD! who points out, "No! It's different! It's from ANOTHER ANGLE!" (That's paraphrased, but it's good enough for this week's Wit 'n' Wisdom.)
Right there is the entirety of FlashForward in a nutshell. There's a potentially intriguing idea. There are a bunch of stupid characters. There's a leaden attempt to tell the audience exactly what they're seeing. There's so much focus on the potentially intriguing idea that it becomes stupider and stupider the more you look at it. And there's simply no sense that anyone on set has any idea how this material should be played, instead choosing to lurch helplessly through many tonal variations before settling down on "vaguely glum."
Really, a show like FlashForward should MOVE. It should be rocketing along so quickly that we don't take time to look at its central concepts. Its central concepts fall apart the more you think about them, the more you realize that James Callis' work as some sort of alternate universe savant is not particularly good but is, instead, his best impression of a drowning man thrashing about for something to hold on to. While everyone else in the cast has just started phoning it in (except for Dominic Monaghan, God love 'im), Callis is just throwing every possible bit of acting he has at the screen. Graceful? God, no. And the more you look at it, the more you realize no one is in control of this thing, has a firm sense of what it is supposed to be. And then you start to think about the sheer logistics of getting lots of mental patients to see the future and making sure they all see different ones and … yeah. It all starts to fall apart, doesn't it?
Now's the part when I start to explain just what went on in this episode, how all of the pieces started to come together. Honestly, though, I don't really know. It was the day before the blackout (the first one, not the "THERE'S GOING TO BE ANOTHER BLACKOUT" one). Various dominoes started falling into place. Gabriel wandered around and got people all worked up by telling them they were supposed to be dead or married to someone else. Simon talked to one of the guys who's in charge of the global conspiracy (he can't be THE head, since the unwritten rules of shitty genre TV insist that the person in charge must be a regular cast member - there's hope for you yet, AGENT MARK BENFORD!). He was tall and blonde and other things. And Janis waffled back and forth with her contact within the conspiracy, who seems like a truck stop waitress (this is a point in favor of the show).
In short, it was another episode where lots of things seemed to happen but nothing actually did. In the course of writing this piece, ABC officially cancelled FlashForward, and I officially talked myself out of being sad about it. There's a part of me that will remember certain things about this show … not exactly fondly, but also not as though it were the worst thing in the history of mankind. There's a part of me that will look forward to the remake, that will sit down my kids in front of it and complain about how they've completely ruined everything by making Demetri a woman. But the bigger, more rational part of me? That part has realized that I'm only in on this because I have a weird commitment to seeing how this all turns out. I hope the finale ends with the most preposterous cliffhanger ever. I hope Mark sees the end of the world and realizes THERE NEED TO BE MANY MORE BLACKOUTS! I hope, against hope, really, that the show does something to validate all of the time I've wasted on it.
- In honor of this hilariously inconsequential episode, please enjoy some hilariously inconsequential press art.
- I hope that guy who complained about me giving this a bad grade and giving Big Bang Theory a good one in this week's BBT thread shows up to explain just why he likes this.