Friday, October 16, 2009

FlashForward, "Black Swan": Black like me

Quick spoilers for last night's "FlashForward" coming up just as soon as I add frozen yogurt in the future...

Given the number of hours of TV I have to watch every week, there comes a point in the lifespan of any new show where I have to decide whether I'm going to stick with it, or if I'm going to pull a George Costanza and declare, "That's it for me!"

With "FlashForward," I'm not exactly at the latter point, but at the very least I think I'm going to take a break from blogging it for a while, only returning if it gets better.

My complaints are the same that they've been: I don't feel connected to any of the characters, which means I therefore don't care about their existential dilemmas about their flash-forwards. Also, when I find myself siding with the flash-forward skeptics, even though I'm clearly not supposed to, I can tell this is not a show designed for my enjoyment. No need to keep rehashing all that in greater detail. (Though specific to this episode, the priest came off as a complete boob, where I think they could have done something interesting with how organized religion is responding to the first seemingly celestial event since Biblical times.)

So I'll give it another few weeks in the DVR rotation, hope for some kind of breakthrough, but I suspect I'm gonna be done soon.

What did everybody else think?


Joe C. said...

At least Shakespeare was actually referred to as Shakespeare in passing.

David said...

Feeling the same way. As I read somewhere recently, it's feeling more 'Heroes' than 'Lost.' Just don't care about the characters.

Barr said...

Too many characters, too many settings. Lost had the island and six main characters. Also, lost had the rest of the world puttering on, oblivious and in peril. The heroes of that story can save therest of the world.

I think this story would improve if it was more like Jericho. Small setting, small cast of characters, small town considerations. You can empathize with the divorced mother and the struggling store owner. Not so much with the surgeon, the FBI agent, the lawyer fiance, the Nazi.

Heroes with a better premise.

Karen said...

It's constructed poorly. Last night, they broke for commercial on Cho telling Fiennes, "I'm going to be murdered. Three shots to the chest." Like this was a big dramatic reveal.

But we in the audience already had this info, as we'd listened to Shoreh Aghdashloo's character say these exact words. So why, instead, did they not play that original scene without revealing what she said? Just hearing, "I know how you die. I read it in an intelligence briefing," and then seeing Cho's reaction to what she says next? Shouldn't the scenes they break on be more dramatic than repeating news we've heard before?

There are things I really like. That opening scene, with the song, was really compelling. And the cliffhanger of each episode, including last night's, when we see that Simcoe may not be as nice a guy as we've though, has grabbed me effectively enough to make me want to tune in next week.

So, the writers can do beginnings and endings but they can't do middles. And that's a problem.

bsangs said...

Gee shocking, a religious figure being portrayed as a "boob" on TV. What a novel idea.

I'm still interested enough to keep watching, mainly because my children are enjoying it, so discussing what's happening with them is fun.

But Dr. B was an idiot for not realizing sooner she was making a stupid mistake and that didn't come across as believable to me at all. And Harold needs to lighten up a bit. Maybe call Kumar for some help. :)

It's not Lost, but it's not the trainwreck that is Heroes either. Yet.

Lane said...

what exactly are we supposed to be caring *about*?

they haven't made it a focus that the end of the world is coming.. did anyone have a flash forward that something major was on the way, ie, a ticking timebomb, or the White House blows up?

just that Joseph Fiennes ends up obsessed and drunk and loses his family..

that John Cho may or may not be dead..

Sonya Walger is nervous about the patient's father...

I mean, what's the real anticipation to see if these flash forwards come true or not? If Fiennes and family are so concerned about losing each other, why not move to the other side of the country? Why wouldn't Cho lock himself in a panic room for a month before the murder date?

I am hoping a twist is coming, but so far, I am left feeling so meh every week. I keep saying the same thing to my friends..

"I *want* to like this show..."

Shari said...

Like you Alan, I haven't connected with the characters either. I'm intrigued by the story itself & want to know how & why the blackouts happened, but I find the people delivering that story are not that interesting to me.

gina said...

I feel very much the same as you, Alan. In fact, I wrote this in an e-mail to friends this morning:

I've come to a decision regarding FlashForward: I will continue to watch it, hopefully for at least the entire season, but I will not make any special effort to watch it on the same night it airs anymore. I thought last night's episode was one of the worst yet, and I thought the acting was terrible, particularly from Agent Noh, Agent Mark and the blonde terrorist lady. I thought all of the big, confrontational scenes - the trailer park, the blonde terrorist conference room scenes and even the pre-surgery/Addison's disease scene - were WAY overacted. These people are not bad actors, so I blame the writing. It felt really corny, and I think it's because the actors were trying to make something out of nothing.

I'm finding that I just don't care.

Q Ball said...

I'm just happy that the bearded AA sponsor didn't have much screen time because he usually sucks the life out of every scene he is in.

The writers dropped the ball with the church subplot. I'm not a Christian, but I think it would be interesting to see how the church would be having a positive influence on the public's existential crises.

Jennifer Boudinot said...

That's funny, I was actually thinking last night that I'm starting to get into it. I think it's interesting how they are pitting husband and wife* against each other--one refuses to make any decisions based on the flash forwards, while one is making all his decisions on them.

*The fact that I can't remember either character's name clearly speaks to the fact that I don't care much about the characters as people. But that's also how I feel about Lost (oh no, will Kate hook up/break up with this guy she has no chemistry with? Who cares! And the most interesting characters always die anyway), and I've still been able to really enjoy Lost just because the plot is so damn intriguing! I'm willing to give FF that chance, especially with "Charlie" joining the cast as some mysterious fellow....

Anonymous said...

Like someone else said, I now no longer feel the need to watch this the same night it's on. It's also become the kind of show where I can read a book or surf the Internet while it's on. Last night was horrible. Nothing happened. And if I see the two main characters' flash-forwards again I will scream!

bgt said...

This show is so incredibly frustrating. I think the comparison to Heroes is a valid one, except Heroes S1 was far superior to FF right up until its disaster of a season finale.

It's just frustrating to see such a good premise be executed so poorly. The lead FBI agents are horribly miscast. Fiennes, as everyone has pointed out, is a black hole of charisma. Has Jon Cho always been this bad or is he just being dragged down by the material? I don't remember finding him so annoying in Harold & Kumar or Star Trek.

I've found the only way to stomach this show is with liberal use of the fast forward button (oh the irony):
-Any scene involving Charley (the child) gets skipped.
-Any music montage (usually involving a whiny, white, "soulful" singer) gets skipped.
-Any scene involving depressing-bearded guy get skipped.
-Any scene with ABC "comedy" music gets skipped.

I really think all you need to see is the opening 10-15 minutes of any ep and the last 30 seconds. Everything else is fluff. I just hate that moments like seeing the mystery person walking around at the baseball game have sucked me in to the mystery.

(And how ridiculous/cliche/annoying was the guy playing the trumper in the trailer park? WTF was that?)

gina said...

(And how ridiculous/cliche/annoying was the guy playing the trumper in the trailer park? WTF was that?)

I know! And how about the fact that the drug dealer (who, like in all TV shows, runs when he doesn't have to) is so anal retentive that he labels his bag o' drugs "yellow cake"? And did Agent No really think that any terrorist worth his salt was going to walk around with a briefcase that advertised the fact that it was (in effect) a bomb? lol!

Maybe this show works better as a comedy.

Dave Weldon said...

I'm afraid in the big old feast or famine world of fall TV that FlashForward has lost me after only three episodes.

So much promise in the original concept yet, as other people have mentioned, no connection to the characters.

Tyroc said...

I'm liking it slightly better than the rest of you it seems. That opening scene and the character seeing himself as a cool black guy in 6 months got my interest.

My bigger complaint is the use of actors from Lost (on V as well.) Good for these individuals for finding work, but as a viewer its frustrating. I wasn't really familiar with the woman who played Penny before, so I was easily able to think of her that way, to believe her portrayal more. But now every scene she's in I think of her as Penny. In a few years I probably would not, and that's when she should be cast again. It's too soon. Seeing Charlie from Lost is too soon as well. He's one of the more beloved characters on that show -- and without some time to stop thinking of him as that character it's hard to embrace any new portrayal he does. Hard not to be always aware that he's an actor, if that makes sense. It's a turn off.

starscream said...

Maybe I watch too much 24, but these guys are really bad agents. Why would he yell out "FBI" in the burger joint? Why would he bring up John Cho's murder first instead of confirming that terrorist lady knew about it?

Also, unless something comes out of the CIA/hacker storyline, this episode (minus the cliffhanger) did nothing to advance the main plot. Way too much time spent in the hospital. And isn't the CIA going to realize they've been hacked, see that someone was looking for info about Somalia in 1991, and realize who's responsible? Unless they're as bad at their jobs as the FBI is at its.

Last gripe- we've all seen the flash forwards. You don't have to replay them EVERY SINGLE TIME they get mentioned.

Billiam said...

I'm a couple episodes behind on this show (and so shouldn't be reading the recaps) but I noticed there were alot of "at least it's not as bad as Heroes comments." And I feel Heroes is on a bit of an upswing this season: they're refocusing on characters who actually make logical decisions. So I think I'm actually enjoying Heroes more than Flash Forward (though as I said, I'm a couple eps behind).

Pierre said...

I enjoy the show. What I'm having a difficult time with is the medical portrayals. I am a general surgeon, and none of the patients have been treated correctly, including this week. "Blood around the liver," especially after two weeks, does not require operation if the patient is doing well (and he was from the "look test"). I know these shows aren't that technical, but when these details are in the stories, and are important, I just wish they would try to get them somewhat correct. I also realize, however, that this laziness is sometimes necessary to further the plot. Anyway, I will try to keep watching, but I'm now sure how much longer...

Bobo said...

That opening sequence was pretty fantastic. It's a shame that the rest of the episode was so boring. I'm literally considering just watching the first and last 5 minutes of this show from now on.

Anonymous said...

Terrorist Chick tell FBI guy she knew his partner had no FF because it was on the internet.
So she's in a WiFi enabled cell with her laptop?

I liked the Addissons guy. His faith in the FF was believable.

But Reverend Boob was awful. I wanna think that spiritual leaders would not blow off a parishioner that way. Alan, you are right. How religion would approach this event would be interesting, especially if the FF led one to question faith.

But again this show continues to be a by-the-numbers procedural with flat characters and no true depth.

But Dom's here, so I'll watch for a little while longer.


Unknown said...

Only Charlie from Lost? It took me a good season of that show to not see him as Meriadoc Brandybuck. I like Dom and had forgotten he was showing up in this ep, and I liked his reveal.

I also like John Cho, mostly for reasons of liking John Cho, and was glad to see Gabrielle Union again, as she's also an actor I like.

I feel like I'm sort of vaguely interested in this show, whereas the show thinks I should be fascinated and I'm totally not. Will Mark be drinking again when we see his FastForward for the eight millionth time?!?! Hmm... Will Dr. B still be having an affair with Mr. English Dude Hmmm...

But then again, I can't tell you how many times I had to see the plane crash on Lost, and I gave it up after 1.5 seasons. I'm in for now, but only on the hulu, and only as long as they keep being at least slightly interesting.

Anonymous said...

In my flash forward I'm not watching Flash Forward anymore.

Ian said...

I totally agree that there are problems with the show. However, I think you're all missing the point with the priest. He wasn't being blase or flippant, he was freaked out. In the babysitter's flash forward, you see that she is being drowned by...the priest! So when he sees her, he obviously realizes that she is the one who he was drowning in his own flash forward, gets freaked out (even more so when she asks how to atone for something that she hasn't done yet), and tries to get her out of there as quickly as possible.

At least, that's how I saw it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Except the babysitter said she could see her killer's face, and it wasn't the priest's.

Dan F said...

I'm hoping that the babysitter's killer is Brian F. O'Byrne without the beard.

The writing is way subpar, and the tone is all over the place. But I have to see where they're going with everything...

Anonymous said...

I actually thought they were acknowledging some of Alan's concerns in this episode. They did move on too fast from all the tragic after efects of the blackout in the pilot. The opening scene of this episode was a chance to re-visit the blackout again. Also in the fight between the FBI agents, you got some hint why the main character may have been staring at the mosaic billboard durng the flashforward even though he know gunmen were coming after him. Finally I thought it was interesting during the black swan explanation that they flashed back to the scene with the kangaroo.
Although I agree the dialouge is bad, and the execution could be better, you get the feeling they want to take us somewhere and that they know where they are going. At least they have a better idea than Lost or Heroes did in their first season.

Anonymous said...

All the comparisons of this show with Lost is making me think back to the early seasons of Lost and its made me realize just how stupid the whole plot is in Lost. You just ignore the bad plot in Lost becasue the show is better produced.

ryan said...

i pretty much agree with what you've said. i think that the mystery aspect of the show is pretty entertaining, but the characters and everything else is just boring.

the difference between this and lost is that lost started out as pretty much a character drama with bits of mystery and mythology thrown in. then eventually it became mostly focused on the mythology. however, by this point, we had already grown to love the characters on the show, so it worked well on both parts. with flashforward, they're emphasizing the mystery early and striking out when trying to make compelling characters. the problem with that is that the mystery can only take you so far if you don't care at all about the characters on the show.

Audrey said...

I'm on the "meh" camp. The cliffhanger in the first 2 episodes got me to return for more. And I admit to the pilot's ending that gave me chill down my spine. But now, I'm finding myself unmotivated to follow. The problem is, the episode that follows the cliffhanger doesn't answer/solve anything. Case #1: FBI's daughter mention she saw D.Gibbins in her flash foward. Then the following episode hardly does anything with it. Why doesn't he ask her for more info? Case #2: Little boy in the hospital want to see the Dr (FBI's wife). The following episode completely ignored that (or maybe I missed it in the episode?).

Another problem: I don't care for these characters. Gosh, I can't even remember their names!

Wes covington said...

I never realized until I read the comments how hard it is to remember the names of any of the characters.

I know that John Cho's character is Dmitri. But that's about it.

So then I went to IMDB to see how many I thought I knew. I had all the others wrong.

For the Courtney Vance character, I didn't know the first name or the last name. (Stanford Wedeck)

And John Cho's character is Demetri, not Dmitri.

Why is the Mosaic website not full of pranksters? You would think a whole bunch of teenagers would say that their flash forward was them having sex with someone or something like that. Or did the FBI hire someone to edit them?

Kenrick said...

i have to agree with "Anonymous" here. i gave up on lost because the mystery was so convoluted and so obviously hashed together along the way. it is certainly well-produced, which does a good job hiding how utterly frustrating and silly the show is. i still want to know how the series will end, but am unwilling to invest in the time to follow all the meaningless details. maybe in the end there will be some amazing reveal that will make everything make perfect sense, but i doubt it.

i'm giving flash forward a chance, because it appears so far they have a plan. the characters' flash forwards had to have been created with a larger plan in mind. i just hope the writers can minimize the number of plot holes.

Tahoe K said...

Alan, I have to agree with Ian. In the shot of the babysitter being murdered it really looked like the priest. I even did the silly "pause, rewind, slo-mo, pause, get close to the tv for a better look" thing. When the babysitter said that she saw his face, and we then see her flash, I think we're meant to understand that what she saw was a convoluted image through moving water -- no clear sense of exactly who was trying to kill her.

It's a scene that once again highlights the writing issues b/c they could have easily clarified that she doesn't really know who it is. Besides, Mark is FBI. Wouldn't his first impulse be to sit her down with a sketch artist so that she could give them an image of the killer? Then he could track that person down and prevent her murder? Or maybe that only happened in shows when I was a kid.

This show has become my cilice. I love the cast, love the premise, hate the writing, hate the inconsistencies, but still force myself to watch every week hopeful that change will come.

Maura said...

I had a big laugh (and by a "big laugh" I mean I rolled my eyes and said WTF) when Dr. B told the other doctor that she isn't bringing her flash forward into the practice of medicine, and then sent the autistic boy to therapy because she didn't want to deal with his father. Worthy of more than an eye roll was her risking a patient's life because she refuses to accept that there might be some truth in the flash forwards. Because her marriage is in danger. Would she really drag her feet like that when she realized that Ned was going to die?

Nope. She's not bringing that stuff to work, at all.

I can take the holes in the story. I can put up with the talkiness, even though I want more action. (Thank God there was a fight, even if it was ill-timed and unbelievable.) And I like the premise enough to stick with the show. But, as I've said before, the family angst is bugging the hell out of me. As bad as it was on Jericho, they did a great job of quickly developing the characters, so I actually did care about what happened to them. (Well, except Eric. I never got the point of making him an unfaithful husband.)

I also found it hard to believe that the priest, after asking Nicole if she wanted to talk, would dismiss her like that. He must have had a clue that whatever was bothering her might be connected to her flash forward. His dismissal didn't feel like the beginnings of a big mystery. It just felt like lazy writing.

I think this could be a good show. I've enjoyed a good part of every episode so far. But its weaknesses are really glaring, and the more I think about them, the more annoyed I become.

Andy Levy said...

I also thought it was the priest who was drowning the babysitter, but my thought was that he was baptizing (re-baptizing?) her, which would explain why she thought she deserved it - she was having her sins washed away.

TahoeK said...

Levy -- Good call. It's sad that my immediate assumption was murder! So many people have pointed out the lack of urgency in the story lines--perhaps I'm just trying to come up with some kind of tension.

JDubTrey said...

I'll recycle something I posted on another board right before seeing "Black Swan":

See, I think Alan is allowing himself to be influenced by Lost too much. I don't disagree that this show has problems, but I don't think it's all about how deep the characters are. L&O is not a serial, but it we don't know jack about those characters and the show has been on for like 20 years.

Lost allowed us to step in the characters shoes by both giving them flashbacks and having centric episodes. Flashforward seems to center the episodes around a piece of evidence or a revelation, and I have no problem with that. Regardless, we still get lots of information about the characters as they explain the context of their Flashforwards.

My problems with the show are this:
1) the acting is not that great (Noh is borderline terrible at times)
2) the dialogue isn't that creative
3) the paradox of people seeing their own futures and then altering their actions based on that falls under it's own weight to me
4) they don't capture the paranoia that would ensue had this really happened. I'm not demanding that they do a show like that, but don't bite off more than you can chew

Right now, I'm curious about the investigation itself #1, and also I'm curious as to how they will give this show a 3 year run. I'm still watching for now.


In reference to some comments above:

Yes, the trumpet player was a painful gag.

It wouldn't make any sense for the pastor to be the one killing the babysitter since she didn't seem to alarmed by his presence when talking to him.

Yes it was hypocritical for Walger's character to transfer the kid based on her FF, but ignore Byrce's suggestion about Addison's. However, I think that was the point: she was being selfish.

Finally, I don't think of lost when watching these ex-Lost actors...anymore than I thought of Kim Dickens as a Deadwood actor when she was on Lost....or Walger in the Mind of the Married Man.

In general, I'm satisfied with this show. The writing leaves something to be desired, and I can understand why others would pare it out of their TV schedule. I'm still in it, for now. As long as it ends better than Life on Mars, I'm fine.

Henry said...

This series is starting to frustrate me to no end.

Anonymous said...

I only watch two or three shows in given season, I've moved this one to the second slot on my TIVO. Talked to several relatives tonight who are also really into it. I think it was marketed badly. (I almost didn't want it because of how much I hated Lost and Heroes.)

So, I'm in for the season. I'm interested in several of the storylines, I like the pacing, and I do trust the writers know where they're going because things build a bit each week. I don't need it all in the first month.

Paul Outlaw said...

I love the cast, love the premise, hate the writing, hate the inconsistencies, but still force myself to watch every week hopeful that change will come.

That's pretty much me too. Although I don't totally hate the writing and I don't pay much attention to the inconsistencies until I read about them here and have to laugh. I am definitely looking forward (no pun intended) to the explanation for why no one used their flash forwards to send back info/tips/warnings/etc. to their six-months-earlier selves.

excentric said...

It lost me in the middle of the last episode...three, I think? I think it's a show about self-fulfilling prophecies. You think it's going to happen, and you subconsciously then make it happen. Three years of this to get to the finish? Even with my favorite Dominic Monaghan, nothing will drag me into that again after LOST. I do still watch LOST, but I just want it to be over.

Miranda said...

Wes Covington said:
"Why is the Mosaic website not full of pranksters? You would think a whole bunch of teenagers ..."

I find that almost believable, actually. Remember right after 9/11 when everyone was saying it was the "death of irony"? Now, I don't think *nobody* would pull pranks, but I'm willing to believe -- for the purposes of the show -- that it would be a pretty small number at least this early on. Everyone's still shell-shocked.

BGT said Joseph Fiennes is a black hole of charisma. I'm going to blame that on two possible causes: that he's focusing too much on his American accent and not enough on acting, and/or that he's being poorly directed/written. I think Joseph Fiennes had a lot of charisma in "Shakespeare in Love," which was (IMO) a wonderful script.

I'm disappointed in "Flash Forward." I thought it sounded great, but every week I find myself pushing it farther down my to-watch list. I think week 1 was the last time I watched it on the night it aired.

(I also ran out of patience for "Lost," around the time they moved the island. I never threw my hands up in disgust; I just realized I didn't really care anymore. Now, with "Heroes," it was much more of a "that's it, I'm out" moment, somewhere in season 3.)

I'll be fairly surprised if I stick with "Flash Forward" through the end of the season. It'll have to get better pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Weird. This was my favorite episode so far, from the horrifying yet silly opening to the Man Who Would Be Black. And Evil Charlie! It feels odd that I know almost every main cast member from something else.

It's not perfect, but I'm glad it didn't go NO HUMOR style drama, and it has a lot of funny moments, though some are forced. It's a little clumsy with the pacing and characterization, but there's hope yet.

Mike F said...

I guess I just don't enjoy this show's imagination...I'm a huge BSG and Lost fan and want a show like this to be the next great page turning sci-fi thriller/drama/mystery...but at the end of the day, this show just isn't very enjoyable...

Joel E said...

Wow, can't believe so many people liked that opening scene from Black Swan.

It's likely at least a million people died world wide in the blackout (and probably more than that...imagine all the plane crashes, car/truck crashes, train crashes, all the drownings, etc.). It's likely that most freeways and major urban streets are clogged with endless multiple car pile-ups. It's likely truck transport, which accounts for much of the trade in this country, has been completely disrupted. It's likely supermarkets are running out of supplies and there's a run on banks.

Except in FlashForward, where a bus crash that kills most of the passengers is treated as a flippant music video, complete with a wacky Bjork song for accompaniment.

This show has absolutely no grasp of what WOULD be going on and their only real effort to acknowledge the incredible toil of such an event (beyond an FBI memorial and some random dialogue) is this idiotic musical interlude, playing it for fun.


KB said...

I keep wondering about that hospital. Is the cancer ward full of people who didn't have visions? Is it just not happening that someone communicates they had a vision and then dies? Only the people who didn't have visions are dying?

Nurse: Welcome to the emergency room. Have you had a vision?
Patient 1: Yes I have.
Nurse: Well then, fill out these forms and stand over there. We'll get to you when we get to you. You obviously survive whatever ailment is troubling you.

Nurse: Welcome to the emergency room. Have you had a vision?
Patient 2: No, ma'am. I have not.
Nurse: I'm sorry, but there's nothing left that we can do. Your insurance considers this a pre-existing condition.

Anonymous said...

When I hear him say he's going to be shot thee times in the chest, I immediately think of Doc Brown's simple solution to this same dilemma in "Back to the Future" (after Marty told him he saw him the future Doc shot in the chest).

Bullet-proof vest, anyone?

It allows the future scenario to play out as expected: he can be shot in the chest three times, and still survive.

(Now if they had said three times in the HEAD, he'd be in big trouble...)