My friend Sally says that I should put a “trigger warning” before this post in light of the attacks in Paris, because I talk about fictional violence in a sci-fi cop show. I’m not sure I agree — to me fiction is a safe place, because it isn’t reality, and that’s part of the point of talking about a silly sci-fi cop show right now. But everyone is different, so here is a trigger warning, just in case.
When the sadness of the real world gets you down, you can always take a mini-vacation by watching a silly TV show. Which is exactly what I did last night.
At the recommendation of a friend who knows I am interested in time travel, I started watching Flash Forward, an extremely high concept TV show from 2010. In the first episode, everybody in the world blacks out at exactly the same time, for exactly two minutes and 17 seconds.
After everyone wakes up, they eventually realize that each person on earth has had a vision of what they will be doing at the same moment six months into the future. Totally trippy, right?
On the surface this might seem like a great basis for a series. Unfortunately the narrative constraint of the premise forces the show’s characters to be more like characters in a video game than in a flesh and blood drama.
Fortunately, this same problem can also lead to some great unintentional comedy. For example, one lead character, a cop, is freaked out because he had no flash-forward vision at all. He worries that in six months he may be dead.
But then a minor character, another cop, shows up and tells him not to worry. She didn’t have any visions either, she says, and she finds it rather refreshing. At which point all I’m wondering is how many minutes of show time this character has left to live.
Sure enough, in the very next scene she dies in a gun fight. Soon after that, the cop who had no flash-forward is telling somebody how freaked out he is. “I met a woman today who also had no vision during the blackout” he says. “Five minutes later she was dead. How do you explain that?”
In that moment I felt a flicker of hope. Because right then and there the show could have totally redeemed itself, if only the other person had replied: “Bad writing?”
Alas, they didn’t go there. Sigh.