It takes more than a mysterious premise fed morsel by morsel to audiences to emulate one of the greatest, most involved TV shows in history. This hasn’t stopped the creators of FlashForward from trying, though.
Now roughly half-way through its first season, the Lost-wannabe is doing nothing to convince me, or anyone else with sense in their head, that FlashForward is the epic successor to Lost many heralded it to be back when it first started. I was sceptical from the beginning, for many reasons. First of all, JJ Abrams, Lost’s co-creator, had nothing to do with it. Secondly, Star Trek cock-up master Brannon Braga did. And thirdly, it isn’t Lost.
The six-season island mystery, so loved and hated by many, is a work of genius, possibly even flooked genius. Rumours abound that the Lost writers didn’t know where they were going with the show when it started but, crucially, this didn’t show. By the end of the first episode, Lost had set the scene for an epic mystery. By the third, it had laid huge concrete foundations and posted massive neon signs saying ‘Mystery here, explore if you dare’. If the writers truly had no idea where they were taking the show, they hid it brilliantly. Yes, polar bears on a Pacific island and half-answered questions put legions of viewers off but for anyone with an ounce of patience this has all paid off.
The faith I put into Lost, that it did know where it was going, came from the brilliant casting, the looming pace and the plethora of tantalising clues. Lost’s on-going mysteries were grounded in age-old problems and legends already giving mankind countless headaches – from Biblical characters to recognised scientific and philosophical problems. The Lost writers may have claimed to not know where the show was going, but I like to think they were publically throwing out some red herrings to add to the building legacy.
FlashForward, on the other hand, had none of this. By the end of the first episode, Joseph Fiennes is acting his British tits off, surrounded by a peculiar mix of Anglo-American talent. All of which were oddly cast; Dominic Monaghan as a conniving, brooding bad guy super-scientist? I still don’t buy it. FlashForward concentrates a shallow focus on the relationships of boring people, people we didn’t know in episode one, people we still don’t know much better by episode 13. These groundless, average characters are all part of the show’s ‘mystery’. If you can call it that.
FlashForward doesn’t deserve your faith. Its wishy-washy character dramas and its tedious insistence on exploring the human condition are far more indicative of a soap than a drama. If you want to watch people bumble about while they try to figure out the point of their existence, you’ll find more answers to this in an episode of Neighbours than the entire run of FlashForward so far.
FlashForward gives a real sense of how little the creators and producers understand Lost’s approach to tension and suspense, as well as how to keep an ‘epic’ mystery unfolding in a compelling and consistent fashion. Throwing in previously unseen footage from someone’s flash forward, which clumsily bolts on a whole new angle to the story, is sloppy. It’s trying too hard to be like Lost and this is where it falls down.
Get this through your head now; nothing will ever be ‘like Lost‘. Ever. Lost is unique, Lost is special. It may skip over specifics to keep the greater mystery compelling while FlashForward grounds its mystery by asking you directly, ‘What if this happened to me’. Yeah, OK, you’ll never crash on a tropical Island and even if you did you’ll never get caught up in the universal struggle between light and dark. But neither of these shows are about true-to-life realism. I mean, come on!
So, I’m sorry if polar bears confuse your wee head or a TV show without answers every two minutes is too slow for your busy, busy life but that’s why Lost is special. It’s a slow-boiling novel, a series of narrative rewards, a carefully crafted character study which really makes you think. Six years on and Lost is falling into an alignment even I, as a strong Lost advocate, could never have conceived.
FlashForward is just another TV show.