Thursday, October 01, 2009


Did you see the pilot episode of FLASH FORWARD last week? The scenes of devastation were stunning, with obviously deliberate echoes of the first few hours after the 9-11 attacks. As you’ve probably heard even if you didn’t watch the show, the premise is that everyone on Earth blacks out for a little over two minutes. During this time, they all have brief visions of events on a single day six months in the future. A little girl says she “dreamt there were no more good days,” an ominous summary of what this future looks like. I’m excited about the possibilities of this series, clearly designed (as has repeatedly been said in the media) to take the place of LOST as the mystery to follow on prime-time TV. Will FLASH FORWARD develop into an intelligent SF story or devolve—as a review on the Innsmouth Free Press ( site predicts—into a “soap opera” with sloppy treatment of the speculative fiction aspects? The series has two potentially interesting topics to explore, (1) how people adjust to what should be a radical upheaval in their world-view, and (2) what caused the blackout and why. I hope the answer to the latter question turns out to be more interesting than it apparently is in the novel (I peeked at the summary); there’s hope in that respect, since one major change has already been made—in the book the flash-forward goes to twenty years in the future, not six months. As for how public agencies and individuals deal with the destructive byproducts of the blackout and the implications of the visions, the first week is too soon to tell. Will FLASH FORWARD become a true SF serial or a just suspense story with an SF MacGuffin?

Whichever way it goes, the show gives a striking illustration of one of the themes in EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU, by Steven Johnson. He discusses at length how the ability to record and re-watch programs has changed the nature of television. Now that fans can analyze dialogue and dissect action scene by scene (even frame by frame if desired), TV writers can construct plots that develop over several years and plant clues that might have been missed completely in the old-fashioned era of watching a show only once (or maybe twice if it’s caught as a rerun). Viewers can tolerate—and have come to expect—complicated character and story arcs. As Johnson puts it, today’s audience has to do more “cognitive work” to absorb the entertainment offered to it. The phenomenon is a prime example of how technology contributes to shaping art.

By the way, what do you think of EASTWICK? I like the three women protagonists more than I expected, but Daryl Van Horn is still annoying. Sure, he’s dark and ravishingly handsome, but he has little else to recommend him except generosity with his wealth, which he frequently undercuts with barbs that accompany the gifts. His seduction technique comes across to me as simply arrogant, not alluring. As far as I can remember from the novel, that aspect of his character is faithful to the book, but, then, I didn’t like him in the book either. If he’s supposed to be tempting the novice witches rather than coercing them, I can’t see why they would find him attractive for longer than it takes to have a conversation with him. The mystery of his past is intriguing, but that plot thread can’t support the series over the long term, especially since the audience (unlike the characters) already knows he’s a demon. Did he bestow powers on the women or merely act as a catalyst to awaken the magic, if that? My impression is that their powers are innate, so once they learn to control their gifts, they won’t need Van Horn for anything. Well, maybe they will eventually figure that out. (And on a side issue, if the office worker is so upset by thinking the man she had a crush on is now attracted to her only because she magically compelled him to be, all she has to do is give him an order along the line of, "You don't have to be interested in me unless you really want to." How hard is that to think of?) Anyway, I won’t give up on the series yet.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. I missed Flash Forward and knew nothing of the plot. Sounds interesting, but I have to wonder, if they only have "six months" worth of stories, how long can the show last. Or, are there no set characters so that every episode stars totally knew people dealing with their own visions?

    Eastwick. Loved the premiere. Love the protagonists. It was great to see Paul Gross again since I adored him in Due South. He's creepy good in this, to me.

  2. Hi there, everyone!

    I know you are all very busy -- but I would like to show my appreciation for all your hard work with this wonderful site, by awarding you this!


  3. No, FLASH FORWARD does follow the same set of characters consistently, like most TV series. It focuses mainly on the people investigating the phenomenon, with their families and friends. Good question about how long the series will last. I hadn't even thought of that. I don't know whether they will play it out in real time or stretch it with each week's episode covering a much shorter time span than a week (which seems to be what happened with the first two episodes -- we're still only a couple of days at most after the catastrophe).

    The story wouldn't have to end when the six-month date arrives. That depends on what kind of future it turns out to be. Might involve calamitous conditions that could take a long time to deal with.