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Monday, 5 March 2012

Awake: America's newest Drama experiment - Is it worth staying awake for?

On paper at least NBC’s new drama series Awake sounds intriguing but there’s a fine line between intriguing and completely ruddy bonkers. Its possibly the most ambitious idea for a TV drama since Life on Mars. Let me try and I do say try to explain the idea to you.  A man looses his son and wife in a horrific car accident. He goes to sleep and awakes in one world where is son has died and another where his wife has died. An interesting premise I think you’ll agree especially when you factor in the fact that neither the audience nor the tortured main character know which of the worlds is reality.

Its been a much hyped show in the states and debuted at the start of March on NBC. As you may expect ratings for the opening episode were quite impressive but I would question  how much of that is down to the strength of the writing or acting rather than those people tuning in to see how a quirky idea like this would be executed.

The show starts quite literally with a bang. We are shown the car accident that has killed either his wife or son in brutal and dramatic fashion and then we were immediately told of the dilemma our main character is facing as he tells his physiologist that he wakes up to a different world everyday Our main character has been to the funeral of both of his family members and both believe the other has died. Have I lost you yet?

The production has a clever way of helping viewers keep up by lighting his two worlds very differently. There’s a warm golden tint to the picture when we are in the world where his wife has survived and a colder grey tint in the world where his sulky teenage son is still alive. I fear without his helping hand I would have been lost almost immediately. In each world our main character has a psychiatrist and in both worlds he’s told by each one that he's dreaming and has cleverly created the other.

Jason Isaacs is believable as tortured soul Detective Michael Britten who is just as confused by his predicament as the audience.  The opener expects a lot from the viewer, two worlds, two lives and two cases for our detective to solve and all within the space of a very fast paced and often rushed forty-three minuets. The crime element of the series is possibly least interesting aspect of the series and I found myself loosing interest in each murder case wanting to know more about the Britten and his two worlds.

Of course it does eventually slow down and when it does it becomes a painful slog to get to the end. As I said before the idea is an interesting one but I question whether an idea like this has the legs to withstand the usual 24 episodes that make up the traditional American season run as it got quickly dull and less and less interesting. I think part of the problem is that we aren’t given the chance to stay in one of his worlds long enough to grow attached to any of the character outside of Britten. Couple that with  the fact that everyone in each world is so utterly convinced that each world is his true reality and I can see this going round and round in circles forever more. The writers will have a job on their hands keeping viewers interested in his plight once the idea of the two worlds has become a bit repetitive. That being said I think its important NBC treats the audience with respect and sticks with the series and not be put off when the viewing figures inevitably drop.

To sum up Awake doesn’t have the legs to warrant an entire run of episodes and the jumping back and forth between two worlds soon gets tiresome rather than interesting. The characters aren’t overly interesting and without an actor of the caliber of Isaacs I may’ve got bored even sooner. Awake isn’t going to set the TV world alight and I’m not sure I could stomach more than the opening episode but I hope the pay off at the end is good enough to surprise and excite those who do manage to stay Awake.

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