Monday, March 5, 2012

Pilot Review: Awake

Awake (NBC)
Premiered Mar 1 at 10pm

It’s been a long time since this show was announced, and after being put online a week early, it’s finally here. This is the kind of series with a cool concept, but it’s hard to see where it’s going in the long run and if it’s headed towards any kind of grander realization. There have been many shows that have attempted to have multiple realities, with varying degrees of success. “Awake” is particularly reminiscent of “Life on Mars,” remade by ABC several years ago and following the adventures of a modern-day cop somehow transported to the 1970s, unsure of whether his new life was but a dream. That question is addressed head-on here, with B.D. Wong’s aggressive psychiatrist Dr. Lee telling Michael that he’s deluding himself by thinking that the world in which his son survived is anything but imaginary. Cherry Jones’ Dr. Evans is more kindly, and her usage of the Constitution was particularly strong and clever. Though there are certain to be inconsistencies along the way, I do like the fact that there are already threads that link the two worlds, with the criminals differing only in crime. It reminds me of the “X-Files” episode in which the same day kept repeating with slight variances in conversation and activity rather than just the exact same events and dialogue. Steve Harris and Wilmer Valderrama make for decent partners in the part of this series that’s a strict procedural cop show, and I have a feeling that Michaela McManus’ role will only grow as Rex becomes more attached to his coach. Jason Isaacs is a great choice to play Michael, capable of conveying his fatigue and desperation in the way that he speaks and carries himself. The sci-fi geek in me got excited when Hannah told Michael to tell Rex she loved him as they were going to sleep, and I hope that show emphasizes partial clarity as it goes forward, because it could be quite intriguing.

How will it work as a series? Shows like this have a tendency to start strong and then get lost in the banality of ordinary events, so if this show does its best to mete out a few plausible (or far-fetched) reasons that things are occurring as they are, this show could get more interesting by the minute, just as long as it doesn’t get dragged down by a need to probe into its characters more than into its mythology.
How long will it last? This show premiered strong, beating the debuts of “The Firm” and “Prime Suspect,” and NBC could really use a hit right about now. Even if this is just a fancy spin on a procedural, I think NBC is going to want to put its faith in it and stick by it. If its numbers continue, a renewal is likely to follow.

Pilot grade: B

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