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"FlashForward" The Complete Series DVD Review

Buy FlashForward: The Complete Series on DVD from Amazon.com FlashForward: The Complete Series (2009-10)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: David S. Goyer, Brannon Braga / Writers: David S. Goyer, Lisa Zwerling, Seth Hoffman, Marc Guggenheim, Quinton Peeples, Scott M. Gimple, Barbara Nance, Dawn Prestwich, Nicole Yorkin, Brannon Braga, Ian Goldberg, Byron J. Balasco, Timothy J. Lea, Debbie Ezer, Robert J. Sawyer (also novel) / Directors: John Polson, Bobby Roth, Nick Gomez, Constantine Makris, David S. Goyer, Michael Rymer, Michael Nankin, Leslie Libman

Starring Cast: Joseph Fiennes (Mark Benford), John Cho (Demetri Noh), Jack Davenport (Lloyd Simcoe), Zachary Knighton (Dr. Bryce Varley), Peyton List (Nicole Kirby), Dominic Monaghan (Simon Campos), Brían F. O'Byrne (Aaron Stark), Courtney B. Vance (Stanford Wedeck), Sonya Walger (Dr. Olivia Benford), Christine Woods (Janis Hawk)

Recurring Characters: Gabrielle Union (Zoey Andata), Michael Ealy (Marshall Vogel), Barry Shabaka Henley (Agent Shelly Vreede), Lennon Wynn (Charlie Benford), Ryan Wynott (Dylan Simcoe), Lee Thompson Young (Al Gough), Yuko Takeuchi (Keiko Arahida), Michael Massee (Dyson Frost/Deacon Gibbons), James Callis (Gabriel McDow), Amy Rosoff (Marcie Turoff), Genevieve Cortese (Tracy Stark), Rachel Roberts (Alda Hertzog), Neil Jackson (Lucas Hellinger), Annabeth Gish (Lita), Callum Keith Rennie (Jeff Slingerland/Dr. Maurice Raynaud), Gil Bellows (Timothy), Ricky Jay (Ted Flosso), Lee Garlington (Carline), Alex Kingston (Fiona Banks), Dominic Rains (Kahmir DeJean), Peter Coyote (President Dave Segovia), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Nhadra Udaya), Mark Famiglietti (Mike Willingham), Vinicius Machado (Emil Gutierrez), Lena Georgas (Celia Quinones), Hira Ambrosino (Yuuka Arahida), Hannah Marks (Annabelle Campos), Barbara Williams (Vice President Joyce Clemente), Lindsay Crouse (Mrs. Kirby), Gina Torres (Felicia Wedeck), Seth MacFarlane (Agent Jake Curdy - uncredited), Carlease Burke (Francine), Elizabeth Sung (Saayo Noh)

Notable Guest Stars: Lynn Whitfield (Anastasia Markham), Marina Black (Sheriff Keegan), Alan Ruck (Alcoholic), Kim Dickens (Kate Stark), Thomas Kretschmann (Stefan Krieger), Curt Lowens (Rudolf Geyer), Jeff Richards (Jerome Murphy), Keir O'Donnell (Ned Ned), Talia Balsam (Anita Ralston), Navi Rawat (Maya), Ashley Jones (Camille), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Ingrid Alvarez), Paula Newsome (Dr. Callie Langer), Claire Jacobs (Lorraine Campos), James Cosmo (Phillip), James Remar (James Ermine), Tim "Timbaland" Mosley (Evidence Agent), Owiso Odera (Abdi Khalif), Chris Coy (Ross Weber), Geoffrey Owens (Dr. Julian Ebbing), Ravi Kapoor (Malik), Ron Orbach (Professor Corey), Jake Johnson (Powell)

Running Time: 938 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: TV-14-DLSV
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled & Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 31, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $59.99
Five single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Clear Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Season 1 Airdates: September 24, 2009 - May 27, 2010

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Clearly, "FlashForward" was groomed to be ABC's successor to "Lost." Introduced during the long-established final season of that island drama, "FlashForward" began with a deadly disaster and, employing the diverse perspectives of a large ensemble cast, proceeded to develop the kind of mythos-heavy, ever-reshaping mystery that welcomed theorizing and loyal viewership.

Generously made the lead-in to "Grey's Anatomy", "FlashForward" had its potent pilot watched by 12.5 million Americans. By the season's end, less than 5 million were regularly tuning in. Some might point to the series' hiatus, initiated in December, as an explanation for the audience breakdown.
It's true that prior to that 3½-month recess, the show had never gained fewer than 7 million viewers and afterwards, it never received that many again. But this hour-long drama had seen its ratings on a steady decline throughout, regardless of scheduling. And it's not hard to understand why.

The series' launch wielded loads of promise with a fascinating premise taken from Robert J. Sawyer's 1999 novel. What would happen if the entire world blacked out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds? The answers -- chaos, destruction, and panic -- were the very kind of universally intriguing themes that have moviegoers worldwide paying to see Roland Emmerich's disaster films. The government response (setting up a task force based on Internet submissions) and swift assessment (everyone saw a vision of their future) were palatable. The notion that people have glimpsed at what they'll be doing six months from now not only introduced dramatic predicaments characters could anticipate or avoid, it also opened up age-old questions regarding fate and free will.

Unfortunately, those fascinating features faded as "FlashForward" opted for the familiarity of procedure, relying heavily on raising puzzles and dilemmas and not nearly enough on solving or advancing them in exciting ways. Against its source form, it was clearly being crafted for the long haul, with each episode concluding with a last-minute hook for next week's and a series finale designed in vain to entice you to return next fall.

Partnered Los Angeles FBI agents Demetri Noh (John Cho) and Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) turn their gazes to the colleague they've just identified as the department's mole. Destined for coupling or not, doctor (Sonya Walger) and patient's father (Jack Davenport) bond as do their children.

In a logical stretch that saved plenty of time and money on production design, the series is set primarily in Los Angeles, where the local FBI division leads the nation's (and world's?) investigation into the global blackout's cause. Heading the operation is Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), a family man and long-recovering alcoholic. Mark uses his professional expertise and his illuminating yet disconcerting own prophecy to determine the criminal masterminds behind the unprecedented phenomenon and discover their methods. The bureau opens the online database Mosaic for citizens to share their visions and corroborate unclear flashforwards.

The rest of the principal cast can be traced back to Mark through work or family. His closest colleagues have tasted opposite ends of the often life and death foreshadowings. Mark's partner, Demetri Noh (John Cho, Harold of Harold & Kumar), saw no flashforward of any kind, suggesting he is to die before the glimpsed date, threatening his engagement to loving lawyer fiancée Zoey (recurring Gabrielle Union). Another agent, Janis Hawk (Christine Woods), sees herself receiving a pregnancy ultrasound, a perplexing predicament for an unattached lesbian like her. The rare individual who didn't witness something spectacular (a fact that can more easily be attributed to sensationalist TV writing than space-time paradox) is nondescript division chief Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance).

The series' other leads tie into Mark's personal world. His surgeon wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) is in the middle of a hypothetical love triangle after her flashforward shows her getting cozy with Lloyd Simcoe (Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Davenport), the widowed father of a young autistic patient. The marital strain and potential new romance are two threads that "FlashForward" truly struggles to make sense of.

Pregnant lesbian double agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) has been caught stealing. All these years later, it's a different potent ring (a quantum entanglement device or QED) now tempting Dominic Monaghan.

Most removed from the mass blackout is another love triangle residing at the lighter end of the series' dramatic spectrum. It involves Olivia's cancer-addled intern Bryce (Zachary Knighton) and candy striper Nicole (Peyton List), two core characters extensively reworked from their introductions as, respectively, suicidal and the Benfords' nanny. The third party standing in the way of their potential coupling is Keiko (recurring Yuko Takeuchi), an unknown young Japanese woman who lends herself to the show's more romantic and ridiculous whims.

Another main character less reworked than redirected is Mark's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Aaron Stark (Brían F. O'Byrne), whose world-rocking flashforward shows his killed-in-action daughter alive again. This military contractor conspiracy storyline proves to be bizarrely tangential, as Aaron journeys to Afghanistan with little consequence to his co-stars, giving the show an unconvincing foreign location to broaden its reach (as do other isolated episodes in "Canada", "Somalia", and "Hong Kong").

A couple of prominent characters are added as the show's only season progresses. First appearing just a few episodes in is Lord of the Rings hobbit Dominic Monaghan as cocky, caustic scientist Simon Campos, who may or may not be responsible for the blackout. Michael Ealy joins the cast right before the hiatus as gradually less dubious CIA agent Marshall Vogel, thenceforth working with the FBI.

Compassionate hospital volunteer Nicole (Peyton List) harbors feelings for Bryce (Zachary Knighton), even though he's hung up on the Japanese woman he first saw in his vision. The vast mountainous landscape behind him helps, but Joseph Fiennes is still a boring lead.

In its 22-episode run, "FlashForward" revealed itself to be flexible and willing to reassess and correct ideas that weren't working. Still, plenty of poorly-conceived material made it onto the air.
And the more promising bits usually didn't pay off in satisfying ways. While this wasn't often a bad television show, it was a frustrating one that failed to deliver much of anything executed to a T. If you squint, you can see the makings of a really compelling, clever, complex sci-fi/mystery/suspense series here. But with eyes fully opened, you can't help noticing a muddled, barely coherent program that tries to do a great many things and finds genuine success at almost none of them.

Since I've more than spelled out the cast and story dynamics and I'm almost certain that nothing I say will make you want to discover this series or give it another chance, I'll just wrap up this body with a few observations that are most responsible for the disappointments of "FlashForward"...

Joseph Fiennes is a hopelessly bland leading man. It's not that we don't buy what he's selling us, it's that we don't care. Despite ample opportunity, Fiennes is terribly uninteresting here, making us apathetic to the most dire of situations. It's sad how ineffective he is, but it also makes sense of how off-radar he's been since portraying the lead in Shakespeare in Love. Titular roles in Best Picture Oscar winners don't always entail fruitful film careers, but Fiennes has a long way to go until he's deserving of Tom Hulce-type recognition.

The show is ludicrous on a fairly regular basis. Overdramatics repeatedly pushed the show into camp territory. Mark's dead serious fifth episode revelation, "Because I was loaded, OKAY?!" inspired a minor Internet meme. And if more people considered the show interesting enough to keep watching, other candidates could have emerged.

The long form benefited the series in some ways: allowing enough time to get to know side characters and their plights, dealing us a finale that provided the originally glimpsed at and long-developed date. But it also required the writers draw their concepts beyond thin. Had this been created in the British mold of short television series for whom renewal is an afterthought, we could have gotten maybe 12 taut episodes that satisfied without padding and ill-fitting tangents. If "FlashForward" was renewed for a second season, where was there to go? Generate a second grandscale flashforward/blackout conspiracy? The teases that carried us through this were barely enough to sustain a standard American season and I see no way to extend it without repeating the same beats.

And so, the series ended with the whimper of its lowly-rated finale coming just four days after the epic "Lost" send-off. The now commonplace The Complete Series is actually the second DVD release "FlashForward" is treated to by ABC and parent company Disney. The first, the 10-episode, 2-disc "Part One, Season One" collection issued last February, now seems both completely redundant and remarkably shrewd. The low-priced set kept the show on minds and tongues during its major hiatus and secured money from some of those millions of viewers who would grow disenchanted.

Those who bought that original DVD release and wish to supplant it with the series' full 5-disc run mustn't forget to make use of Disney's coupon offer to knock $15 off the Complete Series DVD. $15 is less than Part One cost you, but more than it is now worth, and it at least cushions the blow of that premature release stunt.

Episode synopses follow and I've managed to avoid spoilers as much as one can when discussing a serialized drama.

The global blackout at the series' launch inevitably recalls the sights of September 11th. In "137 Sekunden", Mark (Joseph Fiennes) and Janis (Christine Woods) team up to question a Nazi war criminal in a blue-tinted prison.

Disc 1

1. No More Good Days (42:53) (Originally aired September 24, 2009)
The catastrophic mass human blackout producing the eponymous flashforward effect occurs. We primarily observe the FBI's LA office interpret and respond to the phenomenon.

2. White to Play (47:00) (Originally aired October 1, 2009)
The bureau searches for the person behind a name foreseen, with Mark and Noh going to Utah to apprehend a potential suspect.
In addition, efforts begin to identify Suspect Zero, the one man stadium security video catches unaffected by the global blackout. Olivia meets the man from her vision.

3. 137 Sekunden (42:57) (Originally aired October 8, 2009)
Mark weighs the option to pardon a Nazi war criminal claiming to have answers regarding the blackout. Aaron seeks to get his daughter's remains exhumed.

4. Black Swan (43:37) (Originally aired October 15, 2009)
Olivia and Bryce treat an unusually calm patient whose future vision might factor into his diagnosis. Mark joins in the pursuit of potential leads to Demetri's forewarned murder.

5. Gimme Some Truth (42:51) (Originally aired October 22, 2009)
Members of the department are called to Washington D.C. for a Senate hearing on their actions.

FBI agents Al Gough (Lee Thompson Young) and Demetri Noh (John Cho) spend Halloween night trying to find the underground group whose symbol is a Blue Hand. Bryce (Zachary Knighton) is in love with a Japanese woman he doesn't know...yet.

Disc 2

6. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (42:59) (Originally aired October 29, 2009)
While Janis recovers, Demetri and Al (Lee Thompson Young) follow clues to identify their assailants. Meanwhile, on Halloween night, Lloyd's son wanders to the Benfords' house, creating a tense scene.

7. The Gift (42:52) (Originally aired November 5, 2009)
Mark, Demetri, and Al infiltrate an underground club for people who saw no future. Aaron gets visited by someone who served in the army with his daughter. Demetri reveals his lack of vision to his fiancée. Al considers how to change his future.

8. Playing Cards with Coyote (42:42) (Originally aired November 12, 2009)
Lloyd and Simon turn to Texas hold 'em to decide what they'll do next. Agents look to protect a witness to a potentially important murder.

9. Believe (43:03) (Originally aired November 19, 2009)
Bryce claims the foreground as we finally see his flashforward of a Japanese woman he is eager to meet. Mark tries to figure out who texted his wife. And Demetri's cautionary phone call is investigated.

10. A561984 (42:02) (Originally aired December 3, 2009)
Against their orders, Mark and Demetri try to find Demetri's warner in Hong Kong. By declaring responsibility for the blackout, Lloyd and Simon change the world's understanding of the event, but do not close the case. The stretch ends with a cliffhanger.

The unusual October 16th of Suspect Zero himself, Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan), is fleshed out in the "Revelation Zero" two-parter. Simon (Dominic Campos), Demetri (John Cho), Janis (Christine Woods), and Vogel (Michael Ealy) have difficulty passing for relief workers in Somalia.

Disc 3

11-12. Revelation Zero (Parts 1 & 2) (1:26:19) (Originally aired March 18, 2010)
Simon joins Lloyd in captivity. As part of his therapy, Mark takes a drug to flesh out his flashforward. Nicole attends a religious support group. The second half deals largely with Simon, showing us his past and his present family situation in Toronto.

13. Blowback (41:02) (Originally aired March 25, 2010)
After his daughter goes missing again, Aaron takes action against suspect military contractor Jericho. Zoey takes legal steps to prevent Demetri's potential murder.

14. Better Angels (42:54) (Originally aired April 1, 2010)
While Mark works on the investigation back home, his colleagues journey to deadly Somalia, posing as relief workers to study the site of a possibly related 1991 disturbance.

Continue to Page 2 >>

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Reviewed September 8, 2010.

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