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"FlashForward" Part One, Season One DVD Review

For our review of "FlashForward": The Complete Series, click here.

Buy FlashForward: Part One on DVD from Amazon.com FlashForward: Season One, Part One (2009)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: David S. Goyer, Brannon Braga / Writers: David S. Goyer, Marc Guggenheim, Brannon Braga, Lisa Zwerling, Scott M. Gimple, Dawn Prestwich, Nicole Yorkin, Barbara Nance, Seth Hoffman, Quinton Peeples, Ian Goldberg; Robert J. Sawyer (novel) /
Directors: David S. Goyer, Michael Rymer, Bobby Roth, Nick Gomez, Michael Nankin

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: Lee Thompson Young (Al Gough), Gabrielle Union (Zoey Andata), Barry Shabaka Henley (Agent Vreede), Rachel Roberts (Alda Hertzog), Lennon Wynn (Charlie Benford), Ryan Wynott (Dylan Simcoe), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Nhadra Udaya), Amy Rosoff (Marcie Turoff), Genevieve Cortese (Tracy Stark), Alex Kingston (Fiona Banks), Michael Massee (Deacon Gibbons), Gina Torres (Felicia Wedeck)

Notable Guest Stars: Seth MacFarlane (FBI Agent - uncredited), 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), Peter Coyote (President Dave Segovia), Talia Balsam (Surgeon General Anita Ralston), Navi Rawat (Maya), Barbara Williams (Senator Joyce Clemente), Ashley Jones (Camille), Mark Famiglietti (Mike Willingham), Callum Keith Rennie (Jeff Slingerland/Dr. Maurice Raynaud), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Ingrid Alvarez), Ricky Jay (Man in Warehouse), Yuko Takeuchi (Keiko Arahida), Michael Ealy (Marshall Vogel)

Running Time: 433 Minutes (10 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: February 23, 2010 / Part 1 Airdates: September 24 - December 3, 2009
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Clear Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

Buy Part One from Amazon.comBuy The Complete Series from Amazon.com

Let me clear something up right away, in case the credits and cover art above didn't. Yes, Disney is releasing "FlashForward" to DVD next week. No, it is not the Canadian teen show that ran on Disney Channel the 1996-97 season
and discovered acclaimed young actor Ben Foster. That was "Flash Forward" (two words) and this "FlashForward" is smooshed into one. As a current ABC drama, its release makes a great deal more sense per Disney's present television home video policies.

Very loosely adapted from Robert J. Sawyer's 1999 novel, "FlashForward" is born out of one big idea. In the pilot episode, everyone in the whole wide world apparently blacks out for the same 2 minutes and 17 seconds. Disasters abound from this puzzling episode: cars collide, planes crash, and there is an insane amount of death and destruction. Beyond the initial shock, there is another: though unconscious, people had vivid visions. From retained details and corroborated accounts, it's decided that the scenes witnessed were not dreams but a look at the near-future, specifically six months from now.

The briefly-seen "FlashForward" logo pushes the title words together, then moves them apart. Just as he saw in his vision of the future, FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is working on his investigation board and wearing a friendship bracelet.

As foretold by his vision, Los Angeles FBI agent, family man, and long-recovering alcoholic Mark Benford (Shakespeare in Love's Joseph Fiennes) heads an investigation into the inexplicable phenomenon and what it means. His is but one of the many perspectives provided by the show's ensemble cast of characters, all of whom can be linked back to Mark through work or family.

As luck would have it, the brief peek into the future is supremely eventful and telling for just about everyone. (For realism's sake, one character is simply on the toilet.) Characters' visions are shared over time, lending depth and dramatic motivation to the generally intrigued parties.

Mark's skeptical surgeon wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) is troubled to see herself cozy with another man, whom she soon discovers to be Lloyd Simcoe (Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Davenport), the widowed father of a young autistic boy patient. Mark's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Aaron Stark (Brían F. O'Byrne) has a whirlwind of emotions stemming from a flashforward showing his daughter who died in military service apparently alive again.

Mark's wife Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger) and her briefly suicidal intern Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton) are two lead characters who give the show reason to spend time at the hospital. What would Roldy do? Demetri Noh (John Cho) considers the implications when a bong-possessing man claims his future is in the federal agent's hands.

Life and death drama hangs over other regular characters as well. Olivia's normally dutiful intern Bryce (Zachary Knighton) is just seconds away from a public pier suicide when the blackout occurs. One gets the sense that the creators tossed this idea into the mix for a powerful pilot episode image, but the writers do eventually return to and attempt to justify what we learn to be an uncharacteristic turn.

Seeing herself get strangled/drowned in the future, Nicole (Peyton List) the college-aged nanny to the Benfords' mildly traumatized daughter, is wracked with preemptive guilt and tries to better herself. Mark's colleague at the agency, Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) is puzzled to foresee herself receiving a pregnancy ultrasound, being the unattached closeted lesbian that she is.

Meanwhile, Mark's partner Demetri Noh (John Cho of the new Star Trek and the Harold & Kumar movies) is disturbed that he didn't get a flashforward of any kind, apparently signifying he'll die in the coming months, a fate that is confirmed by a troubling anonymous phone call. This comes as Noh is expecting a different life milestone, being engaged to a loving fiancée (recurring Gabrielle Union).

"FlashForward" welcomes a cast addition a few episodes in, as Lord of the Rings hobbit Dominic Monaghan embodies cocky, caustic scientist Simon Campos, a clear villain who, along with a more sympathetic regular cast member, may or may not be responsible for the blackout phenomenon.

Monaghan's arrival seems to confirm that this show is prepped to be ABC's successor to soon-ending ratings juggernaut "Lost." I've never seen "Lost", but I can gather that the creators of "FlashForward" are aspiring to the same kind of debate-inspiring mythology. There are several superficial parallels that even a non-viewer can make. The ensemble cast covers nearly every broad demographic out there: white, black, Asian, gay (sadly, no fatties, oldies, or Hispanics... yet). Too large to squeeze into every 40-minute installment, the troupe is rotated so that different characters rise to the foreground of different episodes. Each character brings a unique perspective to the same phenomenon.

Military father Aaron Stark (Irish actor Brian F. O'Byrne) mourns the fact that his daughter is really dead (or is she?). This passionate embrace confirms what the thumb ring apparently already suggested: Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) is the show's homosexual regular.

From all the good things I've heard said about "Lost", I hope that it is of a higher quality than this, because I was fairly underwhelmed by "FlashForward" overall. At its start, this show has an extremely interesting idea, but the concept is drawn beyond thin without compelling characters or drama to sustain it.
After a promising pilot, "FlashForward" quickly settles into a formulaic, by-the-numbers product, displaying a fatigue you'd expect from a show's third season. Like a typical novel, the premise would seem to lend itself more to a film than a series.

The sci-fi twist does little to distinguish the crime investigation content that becomes the central focus. Sure, the clues are possible hallucinations and the suspects are only potential criminals. But it still plays out with the interrogation, exposition, and misdirects you can easily find elsewhere on television. As if recognizing that the standard FBI stuff isn't enough to win over viewers, there's always the peripheral hospital drama of Olivia's workplace to fall back on.

At least there are some interesting notions in play. The show raises questions of free will versus predetermination, even as only a few characters seem determined to change the future angst they glimpsed. The depiction of mass disturbance inevitably recalls the 9/11 terrorist attacks but on a global scale. Seeing how foreknowledge raises fears and questions for those who gain it will fascinate those of us reduced to living only in the present. The FBI's chief tool in the blackout investigation, a website called Mosaic welcoming user submissions, testifies to the power of electronic communication you're right now experiencing.

Sadly, none of those aspects is intriguing enough to compensate for the uninspired presentation. Bits of the show feel like they're pulled from other contemporaries (if I saw more television, I could confirm and name-drop here). Most of the time, there is the feel that the writers are trying to model their work after other programs and hit borrowed beats. Rarely do we get the sense that there is ample, meaningful story coming our way. Style outranks substance and the former isn't even all that impressive, dealing us things like a random trailer park chase scene and a climactic shootout set to a karaoke rendering of "Like a Rolling Stone."

Without fail, "FlashForward" concludes each episode with a twist designed to build must-follow suspense. It falls flat most of the time, a fact that's especially noticed when viewing at your own pace on DVD. It's not as if you don't want answers, it's just that you don't crave them, or that you'd really prefer they just cut to the chase and give them to you.

Courtney B. Vance plays Stanford Wedeck, Mark's boss at the Los Angeles FBI division. And that's really all there is to say about that. A-ha! Spilling coffee on himself is no big deal to newly-single dad Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport) as he meets his foreseen adultery target.

"FlashForward" has some pretty big names in its cast. By my count, at least four of them wouldn't be out of place holding a sizable role in a movie. (Included in that group is Courtney B. Vance, whose role as Mark's superior is indescript enough not to have mentioned sooner.) This show furthers a trend of Western European actors burying their accents for American television, specifically the American Broadcasting Corporation. Three of the leads do so here, successfully for the most part, while two others playing more ambiguous/suspicious characters get to retain their native English tongues. (As a result, Jack Davenport is a lot more interesting and, perhaps unintentionally, entertaining.) The acting is generally fine but unextraordinary. The one performer who most stands out does so in a negative way; Joseph Fiennes is hopelessly bland, conveying positively nothing with the facial expressions we linger on.
That might explain why Shakespeare in Love remains his only go-to parenthetical credit more than a decade later.

As a DVD reviewer, it is odd for me to be watching and discussing a television series that began airing just five months ago. But I do so because "FlashForward" comes to DVD next week in a 2-disc, 10-episode set called Part One, Season One (in that counterintuitive order). As that moniker indicates, we definitely haven't seen the end of "FlashForward." ABC placed it on hiatus so as to finish the season without off weeks and without competing against the Winter Olympics.

The series' ratings have been on a steady decline since a strong debut, with the most recent episodes giving ABC third place for the Thursday night 8:00 pm E/P timeslot behind CBS' "Survivor: Samoa" and Fox's "Bones." That isn't the only issue for the show. Co-creator David S. Goyer, writer of the Blade movies and a collaborator on Christopher Nolan's Batman films, became showrunner when fellow executive producer Marc Guggenheim bailed in October. Goyer, meanwhile, will stay on to some degree (if nothing else, in credit), but he is handing showrunner reins over to wife Jessika Borsiczky, Lisa Zwerling, and Tim Lea.

While some doubt may be cast on the show's future and this quick mid-season cash-in DVD doesn't exactly quell it, enjoy these "Part One" episode synopses, which are as spoiler-free as any serialized show synopses can be...

Joseph Fiennes strikes a heroic pose in a shot that seems to pay tribute to the poster and cover of "The Dark Knight", on which "FlashForward" co-creator David S. Goyer received story credit. Bryce (Zachary Knighton) tries to persuade Olivia (Sonya Walger) to consider the meaning of their patient's flashforward in "Black Swan." Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) questions the haziness of Mark's flashforward, prompting the show's most quoted and remixed line: "Because I was loaded, okay?!"

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 the one man videotape catches not being affected 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.

Dressed as Sally from "The Nightmare Before Christmas", Benford nanny Nicole (Peyton List) is surprised to see this young pimp (Ryan Wynott) make himself at home in the Halloween episode "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps." Self-confident scientist Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan) settles his dispute with Lloyd with a customary game of poker in "Playing Cards with Coyote." Bryce is eager to identify, track down and meet the young Japanese woman (Yuko Takeuchi) of this flashforward/his dreams.

Disc 2

6. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (42:59) (Originally aired October 29, 2009)
While Janis recovers, Noh 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, Noh, 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. Noh 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 Noh's cautionary phone call is investigated.

10. A561984 (42:02) (Originally aired December 3, 2009)
Against their orders, Mark and Noh try to find Noh'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.

While Olivia (Sonya Walger) and Mark (Joseph Fiennes) have problems, staying decent for network television isn't one of them. Zoey (Gabrielle Union) and Demetri (John Cho) form one of the show's seemingly ill-fated couples.


With ten episodes on two discs, Part One of "FlashForward" is more compressed than your typical TV DVD. But there's not a sign that this set is any worse for that. Picture quality is excellent on this 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. The series opts for stylized color palettes, shaky handheld camera work, and some light grain. No obstacles stand in the way of enjoying that look. The Dolby 5.1 English soundtrack is fine, if less engulfing than you might expect. At a few commercial break transitions, the audio sounds a bit choppy, but nothing major. The show employs a handful of generic covers of famous pop songs.

David S. Goyer, co-creator, writer, producer, and director, discusses "The Effects of a Global Blackout" as filming of the "FlashForward" pilot shuts down a Los Angeles highway. Olivia (Sonya Walger) and Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) share a look at evidence that suggests their marriage is in trouble as foreseen in this preview of the rest of Season 1. Darkness, angular text and distorted scenery are the three main features of the DVD's unpleasant menu screens.


There are just three short bonus features, all of which are found on Disc 2.

"Creating Catastrophe: The Effects of a Global Blackout" (7:05) provides a behind-the-scenes look at an ambitious set piece from the pilot. Crew members discuss all of the challenging aspects of the sequence,
including a shut-down major highway, made-up extras, explosions, and CGI effects. This promotional vignette doesn't stand well as the main video bonus, but it suffices for this impatience cash-in.

"'FlashForward': A Look Ahead" gives us 4 minutes and 45 seconds of footage presumably from Episode 11, set to air on March 18th. I suspect some editing work remains on this excerpt, which follows up on two of the big loose threads from batch finale "A561984." While the clip will have little value in a month, it's a pretty neat inclusion right now.

Finally, "Could" is a soapy 90-second commercial for the show's return. It's narrated by Dominic Monaghan and shows us some more upcoming moments.

The trailers that open Disc 1 showcase Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, "Lost": The Complete Fifth Season, and Everybody's Fine.

Inside the case lies a sheet meant to cushion a blow but instead may deal one: it's a rebate offer for $15 off The Complete First Season of "FlashForward", which we're told will be released to DVD and Blu-ray August 2010. And you just bought this... why? Perhaps you were hypnotized by the highly holographic cardboard slipcover which produces mesmerizing color effects on its focal geodesic sphere.

The DVD's bland main menus serve up vision clips with sound bites and angular text listings. Submenus are scored and static.

Following the blue hand, Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) leads fellow agents Al Gough (Lee Thompson Young, "The Famous Jett Jackson") and Demetri Noh (John Cho) in an undercover mission to break up an underground organization. It seems safe to say we'll be seeing a lot more of "Lost" alum Dominic Monaghan as his self-described genius sits down with the FBI agents in this set's tenth and final episode.


"FlashForward" has an interesting premise and some good ideas, but it isn't well-suited to exploring either in its routine, serialized execution. Surely you can find better and worse dramas on television than this one. You are most likely to enjoy it if you exhibit patience, enjoy science fiction in moderate doses, revel in show mythos, and are willing for writers to toy with you.
Even as the numbers dwindle, enough viewers fit those labels to make the show likely to return for a second season, presumably with more of the same and some differences.

While there's a good chance you're more enthusiastic about "FlashForward" than I am, you'll still probably share my apathy for this lean DVD release. It'd be one thing if the show was comprised of ten-episode stretches that could stand on their own. That is clearly not the case. Which makes this two-disc set a brazen way to exploit a mid-season lull and potentially get fans to buy the same thing twice. It's a savvy business decision, which leans upon the fact that lower prices inspire more sales and the possibility that the show's viewership (and fanbase) could very well continue to decline. If you're that eager to catch up on the show before its mid-March return, you can watch all ten episodes online for free. Otherwise, you should be able to handle waiting another six months for the complete Season 1 DVD and Blu-ray.

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Reviewed February 19, 2010.

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