Spring 2012 Review: Awake

25 Apr

In this reality, his son is Awake

The science fiction – police procedural genre is a limited one to be sure.  Once, in this space, I hailed the original UK Life on Mars as a paragon of the genre.  Awake is a television’s latest play for a standout sci-fi-po-pro.  The high concept of Awake is as follows.  Homicide detective (shows always seem to be made about the homicide detectives, rather than I don’t know, vice) Michael Britten gets into a massive car accident.  After the accident, he lives his life in two separate realities, one in which his wife is alive and his son died in the accident, the other in which his son is alive and his wife died in the accident.  When he goes to sleep in one reality, he wakes up in the other, and he keeps different colored rubber bands on his wrist to remind him which reality he is in at any given time.

He visits two different psychologists in each reality, having been assigned to go by his job after surviving a horrible accident and losing a loved one.  Both psychologists, in different manners, insist that their reality is the true one, and that the other is an incredibly vivid dream.  In each reality, his partner is different as well.  As he goes back and forth, he begins to see strange resemblances between the cases in both realities, and information he remembers from the opposing realities helps him solve them.

One psychologist, played by former 24 president Cherry Jones, is the soft one; telling him that his alternate, though obviously fake, dream world can be very helpful, and he should go with it, taking what he can, while of course acknowledging that it’s not real.  The second psychologist, portrayed by Law & Order: SVU psychologist and Oz priest B.D. Wong, takes a harder-edged approach, telling Britten that all this fantasizing about both his family members still being alive is extremely dangerous, and that if he doesn’t abandon his fake reality, he is in danger of losing his real one.

The best thing I can say about the show, and I absolutely don’t mean this as the backhanded compliment it might sound like, is that the premise is legitimately intriguing.  The premise is more intriguing than the first episode was.  I really like the idea of the multiple psychologists.  Even though he was forced to attend therapy by his job in the world of the show, rather than seek it himself, it seems like a very modern solution to dealing with what seems like an old school sci-fi Twilight Zone or Outer Limits problem.  It’s such a modern first instinct to have doctors in on it, rather than deal with it one’s self – think Sopranos meets science fiction.  I love the psychological parts; it’s the police procedural bit I’m not entirely enamored with.

I liked Jason Issacs, but I felt like I wanted more out of this show than to just be a police procedural where he solves two cases, using his cross-reality knowledge.  I don’t’ think that’s all it’s supposed to be eventually, and if I had to guess, though I don’t know, I’d guess Kyle Killen and co have a bigger plan if the story goes on.  Still, the goal of a pilot besides set up should be to put one’s best foot forward and I’m not sure Awake did that.  It ranks somewhere between Life of Mars (which was better) and Alcatraz (which was slightly worse) in the police produral – supernatural sci –fi mini genre.

Will I watch it again?  Yes.  I’m behind on shows, so it’s hard to say I’ll keep up faithfully, but I’ll watch at least one more.  It didn’t make me immediately wish the next episode was out, which isn’t a great sign, but as far as new shows go these days, it’s more interesting than most.

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One Response to “Spring 2012 Review: Awake”

  1. Beardface April 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    This is one show that will likely be canceled that I’m kind of bummed about. Only seen the first two episodes, and while it’s not perfect it’s certainly better than most of this year’s crop of rookie stories. Too bad your average television viewer would rather be watching Tim Allen or Rob Schneider.

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