HOUSTON - Creativity seems to be dying a slow and shamelessly public death. Original ideas are hard to come by, evidenced by the preposterously high number of movie sequels, movies based on books, movies based on other movies, reality TV shows, celebrity reality TV shows, reality competition shows, seasons of Dancing with the Stars, etc. Essentially, it seems that popular media is playing to the lowest common denominator and feels no need to really stretch itself imaginatively. But every so often, an idea comes around that reminds us that humanity has not lost all powers of creative thought, that originality still exists and we just have to work a little harder to find it. This is part of the reason I love Awake.
The other part is B.D. Wong.
The concept for the series is based around the dual realities of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), a police detective, who gets into a car accident with his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen), and their son, Rex (Dylan Minnette). In one reality, Michael's wife survives and in the other, his son survives, but in neither is Michael really sure if he's awake. The way Michael transitions between consciousnesses is by falling asleep in one and waking up in the other, and the way he differentiates between the two is by wearing colored bracelets—red for his wife and green for his son, based on their favorite colors.
I am a sucker for mind games. Some of my favorite movies include The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Memento and The Sixth Sense; I was an addict to Lost and am currently addicted to Fringe. Basically, I like anything that keeps me guessing about the fundamental nature of reality for a few hours. I like being forced to use my mind as I sit in what is usually a mindless stupor. And that is my primary attraction to this show. While I have a few guesses as to what the actual story is here, I'm looking forward to how the show will make things more interesting. The main danger with shows like this is if it gets too complex too quickly, it's too hard to follow, and if it's too easy to figure out too quickly, where's the fun? But it's only been one episode, so I remain hopeful and excited. For now.
In this first episode, we find Michael in therapy with Dr. John Lee (my god, I love you B.D. Wong of Law & Order: SVU fame), where they are dealing with the death of Michael's son and the ways in which his wife is grieving. His partner is Detective Isaiah "Bird" Freeman (Steve Harris, who actually does look like a bird…) and they are trying to solve the case of an abducted girl. In the other reality, Michael is in therapy with Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones) and has a rookie partner (Wilmer Valderrama) with whom he is trying to solve the case of a serial killer, while his son has taken up tennis as part of his grieving process and happens to have a super hot tennis coach. Michael is able to use clues from one reality and apply them to the other in order to solve both cases, one of the many perks of being essentially schizophrenic!
The pilot ends with Michael solving both cases and deciding that if becoming "sane" means giving up either his son or his wife, he'd rather be crazy.
The only gripes I currently have with the show are, first, the difficulty I have keeping track of which reality we are in at any given time. And by watching Michael cut into his own hand to see if he's really awake, I guess he's having trouble, too. Unless we have a view of Michael's wrist at all times, it's hard to keep them straight. The other question mark in my mind is Wilmer Valderrama playing any part but Fez on That 70's Show. That accent is just funny. How am I supposed to believe he is a badass police officer solving crimes if all I can hear in my head is "I like ith crrream becuss it ith cold and yummy?" But other than that, I think this show is off to a great start as long as they can keep up the momentum. I'm looking forward to having my brain messed with on a weekly basis!
Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for watching KPRC Local 2!
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