Friday, April 17, 2009

Pilot Script Review - Flash Forward

Written By: David S. Goyer & Brannon Braga
Draft Date: November 12, 2008
Pages: 58
Network: ABC
Category: Thumbs Up

You're going to be hearing a lot about Flash Forward in the coming weeks / months. This one is an all-but-guaranteed pick-up for ABC, and while being heralded (already) as the inheritor of the post-Lost slot, a better thought comes to mind... premiere FF in the fall on Wednesdays at 8pm (that's where Lost started). THERE ARE NO MAJOR HITS ON WEDNESDAYS AT 8PM RIGHT NOW... PROGRAM AGGRESSIVELY, NETWORKS! Then let Lost air its final season at 9pm leading out of FF once FF is a massive hit. Which ABC needs it to be. There's an article I won't link to because of sheer indifference making its way around los interwebz today about how Steve McPherson needs a hit next season. This is true. And, in my holy opinion with the screeners not seen (I have the feeling I'm going to be clarifing with that caveat a lot in these reviews), ABC has two really good shots at major fall hits. Interesting the two potential hits are kind of similar to ABC's network revitalizing hits from Fall 2004 — Lost and Desperate Housewives. PS, the other show is Eastwick. I'll get to that script... later... probably not today (as I'm not just running through my Thumbs Up category first... gotta sprinkle some bad reviews in here!) but maybe this weekend?

Also, in case you didn't know, Flash Forward is based on a novel of the same name by Robert J. Sawyer. I haven't read the novel, so there will be no comparisons here.

When I first read the pilot, months ago, I was like "and...?" Which, of course, is part of the genius of the script. Much like Lost's pilot, FF demands that you ask "and then what happens?" My reaction to the script definitely included that question, but another part of me desperately wanted some form of open-and-shut story to happen in the pilot, simply because I knew that heavily serialized shows were on the way out and I liked the script enough to want it to see the light of day. It's a lot of set-up for what's to come. But what's to come seems so very cool that I'll forgive the show — and if you buy into the hype, ABC will as well — for being so heavily serialized (something I will not be as forgiving of to other pilots). Why am I so forgiving? Because, again like Lost (okay, I'm stopping the comparisons now), FF is very character based. There are real emotions, real drama that is going on... it just happens to take place against the backdrop of "HOLY EFF EVERYONE ON THE PLANET BLACKED OUT FOR 157 SECONDS" and later we find out that almost everyone also had a vision of an event six about months after the "present" of the pilot (April 19, 2010 for those playing at home... it happens to be a Monday...) and that our main character, FBI Special Agent Mark Benford, is going to be running a special project trying to piece it all together (because while debriefing at the Los Angeles field office, he brings up that "blacking out" isn't exactly the right word, they all start talking about it being a dream that felt real, like a hallucination, yadda yadda yadda).

To talk about the show's plot would be to give things away. Many of the great moments are simple human moments, like someone who didn't have a vision of the future realizing it might just mean he's going to die in the next six months, or some massively logical thing that you'd never think of, like... um, if everyone driving on the freeway blacked out there would be one MAJOR pile up (or, on the less huge but no less catastrophic level... a balloon floating in the air because the people holding it blacked out... nice touch). There are conspiracy theories, of course, and mysteries the audience will be trying to figure out.

The things that I really liked about the script of Flash Forward are (a) how grounded it is (see above), (b) how the major event happens at the end of the first act / teaser break and everything thereafter is human drama as opposed to special-effects driven craziness, and (c) how it starts from a very specific character's point of view and then expands out, instead of shoving a handful of different characters at us and eventually bringing them together.

We start with Mark Benford, meet his wife (Olivia) and daughter (Charlie...), meet the kid's babysitter (Nicole), Mark's AA sponsor (Aaron), and Mark's FBI partner (Dominic) all through Mark's POV and all in the first 6 pages. It's organic, natural, feels less choppy, and yet we've still met a number of the characters we're going to be following in the pilot. The only character seemingly disconnected from Mark that we follow is Bryce, a man who has going to commit suicide, but because of the black out incident, doesn't (and, y'know, sees it as a sign). Turns out that he's a young doctor is the hospital where Olivia works, so, there is a connection after all.

I've heard from sources at the studio that (a) the pilot is costing a pretty penny, and (b) that while sometimes the studio dumps a lot of money into pilots and it doesn't show up on the screen, the dailies of FF look amazing. I could not be more eager to see a screener, because that's where the magic really is.

ABC is going to be betting on FF. Big time.

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